Murray Goulburn Seeks Block to Saputo Buying Warrnambool Shares

Murray Goulburn Cooperative Co., part of a three-way bidding contest for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory Co., has asked an Australia regulator to block rival suitor Saputo Inc. from buying shares.

“Murray Goulburn seeks interim orders, including that Saputo be restrained from processing acceptances and acquiring Warrnambool shares on market,” the Takeovers Panel said today in a statement. “Murray Goulburn submits that the Warrnambool board should advise shareholders to wait until the bid is in its final stages, or bidders have declared their bids final.”

Saputo, Canada’s largest milk processor, this week raised its offer to A$515 million ($470 million), beating Murray Goulburn’s bid and a cash and share offer from Bega Cheese Ltd. The board of Warrnambool, Australia’s oldest dairy producer, recommended shareholders accept Saputo’s A$9.20 a share offer.

Saputo’s bid was made unconditional on Nov. 25 and it declared there would be no special dividend, the panel said. Abandoning the dividend means the offer doesn’t agree with previous announcements, Murray Goulburn submitted, according to the panel.

Warrnambool disagrees with the basis of Murray Goulburn’s application to the panel, the company said in a separate statement. The Takeovers Panel hasn’t decided whether to conduct an investigation, it said.

Shares in Warrnambool declined 0.2 percent to A$9.24 at 11:02 a.m. in Sydney today.

The three-way contest for 125-year-old Warrnambool, based near the town in Victoria that bears its name, has more than doubled its market value in the two months since Bega, its largest shareholder, made an initial offer. Bidders are pursuing greater scale to help them tap rising demand for dairy produce, including milk powder, in Asia’s emerging nations.

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