Bega re-enters battle for Australia's WCB

Reuters

SYDNEY, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Bega Cheese Ltd, thebiggest shareholder in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory CoHoldings Ltd, raised its cash and share bid for theAustralian dairy company on Thursday, re-entering a three-waytakeover battle.

Bega raised its offer to 1.5 of its shares and A$2 cash foreach WCB share, up from its initial September offer of 1.2shares and A$2 cash. At Wednesday's closing price, the offer isworth A$8.87 per share, or around A$496 million ($461 million).

That falls just short of the latest A$9 per share cash offerfrom fellow shareholder Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd butis above an A$8 per share bid from Canada's top dairy producer,Saputo Inc.

WCB is being chased for its export connections to Asia,where demand for both for its basic dairy produce and itshigh-tech milk extracts is rising strongly.

Bega, which owns around 18 percent of WCB, said it plannedto declare its offer unconditional and would not be increasingits bid.

WCB shares closed at A$9.10 on Wednesday.($1 = 1.0755 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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