WCB board reinforces preference for Saputo

WARRNAMBOOL Cheese and Butter directors have  again recommended  shareholders accept a takeover offer by Canadian-based Saputo and reject the offer by Victorian-based Murray Goulburn.

In a further sign the board is keen to finalise fierce bidding   for the Allansford-based dairy company, a statement was issued to the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday afternoon indicating directors had unanimously voted to accept the latest Saputo package “in the absence of a superior proposal”.

“All directors and senior executives have accepted the final Saputo offer in respect of all WCB shares held by them or which they otherwise controlled and have also confirmed they do not wish to exercise their respective withdrawal rights,” the statement by company secretary Paul Moloney said.

“Your directors consider that the final Saputo offer is simpler, more certain and more valuable than the earlier Saputo offer.”

Saputo’s $9-a-share cash offer is unconditional and will go higher if it gains more than 50 per cent control and is open until January 10.

Murray Goulburn must wait for approval from the Australian Competition Tribunal before its conditional $9.50 a share cash offer can be accepted. 

Saputo has about 17 per cent of WCB shares and Murray Goulburn 17.26 per cent.

NSW-based Bega Cheese, which owns 18.7 per cent of WCB, conceded defeat  this week as the bidding war pushed the takeover price from $320 million to $533 million and out of its reach.

Japanese-owned beverage and dairy company Lion owns 9.99 per cent of  WCB shares.

Meanwhile, WCB has revealed its first half-year earnings were expected to double to about $60 million as Chinese demand for milk powders and a falling Aussie dollar pushed prices near record highs. Australia’s fourth biggest dairy processor, which collects 900 million litres of milk a year, said  the boost in earnings is likely to translate into higher milk price payments to farmer suppliers.

“This expected improved result for the first half as well for the full year is likely to be reflected in the usual January milk price review,” WCB chairman Terry Richardson said.

pcollins@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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