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Head office and manufacturing company Saputo Inc., seen in Montreal, November 14, 2013. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)
Head office and manufacturing company Saputo Inc., seen in Montreal, November 14, 2013. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)

Saputo boosts stake in Australian dairy firm Add to ...

Saputo Inc. has once again increased its stake in the Australian dairy producer at the centre of a drawn-out takeover battle.

Montreal-based Saputo firmed up its status as the biggest shareholder of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, with its stake rising to 26.4 per cent from 21.4 per cent, according to a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday.

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Saputo increased its stake twice last week, initially to 20.14 per cent and then to 21.4 per cent.

The cheese-processing giant also confirmed a few days ago that it has extended its $550-million (U.S.) takeover bid for Warrnambool by about two weeks to Jan. 22.

A recent Australian news report said that United Dairy Power, the country’s largest privately owned milk processor, has decided to back Saputo’s takeover proposal.

Saputo is fighting a rival bid from Australian dairy company Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co. Ltd..

The offer from Saputo has the support of Warrnambool’s board and is valued at $9.20 (AU) per share. That would rise to $9.40 per share if Saputo clinches 75 per cent or more of Warrnambool.

If Saputo wins at least 90 per cent, it will pay $9.60 per share.

Murray Goulburn is offering $9.50 per share, but that is conditional on winning the support of the Australian Competition Tribunal.

Saputo reached a friendly agreement to buy Warrnambool – Australia’s oldest dairy processor – in October and its bid has been cleared by Australian regulators.

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