Ultimatum helps Saputo lift its share in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter to 26%

Saputo has gained its strongest momentum yet in the fight for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB), with acceptances to its offer surging past 26 per cent.

The Canadian dairy dynamo issued WCB shareholders an ultimatum on Friday, saying they only had 12 more days to accept its unconditional offer of $9 cash a share.

In an announcement to the ASX on Monday, Saputo said over the weekend its acceptances had jumped from 21.4 per cent to 26.4 per cent.

TIMELINE: Warrnambool Cheese and Butter bidding war

The Montreal-based company extended its offer on Friday morning, nine hours before it was set to close.

Chief executive and vice-chairman Lino Saputo jnr said there would be no more extensions.

“If shareholders want to be paid their cash, and paid quickly, they must accept our offer and make sure we receive their acceptance before the offer expires,’’ Mr Saputo said.

Saputo is jousting for control of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter with Australia’s biggest dairy company, Murray Goulburn, which has offered $9.50 cash a share, or $533 million.

But Murray Goulburn’s offer is conditional on gaining approval from the Australian Competition Tribunal — which is set to make a decision on February 28 — and acquiring at least 50 per cent of the company.

Saputo’s offer closes at 7pm on January 22. To appease the Australian Takeovers Panel, Saputo released a three-tiered bid last month that increases when its stake reaches different thresholds.

It will pay shareholders $9.20 a share if it acquires 50 per cent, $9.40 at 75 per cent and $9.60 at 90 per cent.

THE AGE

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