* Saputo raised bid by 12.5 pct to A$9/shr
* Saputo plans to declare offer unconditional
* Warrnambool board "unanimously recommends" new offer (adds revised Saputo bid, Warrnambool recommendation)
By Lincoln Feast and Jackie Range
SYDNEY, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Canadian dairy company Saputo Inc raised its takeover offer for Australia's WarrnamboolCheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd (WCB) by 12.5percent on Friday, and Warrnambool's board unanimouslyrecommended it.
Saputo, Canada's largest dairy company, has been biddingagainst WCB shareholders Bega Cheese Ltd and MurrayGoulburn Co-operative Co Ltd, chasing WCB for its exportconnections to Asia, where demand for both for its basic dairyproduce and high-tech milk extracts is surging.
Saputo's new bid, at A$9 per share, values Australia'soldest dairy company at A$505 million ($470.84 million), makingit the world's most expensive dairy company on aprice-to-earnings basis.
To win the battle Saputo said it would remove all conditionsfrom its offer and shorten its payment terms to five businessdays.
WCB said on Friday that after careful consideration of thethree proposals received over the past few days, it decided torecommend Saputo's new offer, in absence of a superior proposal.
"The board's recommendation reflects the increased cashconsideration offered by Saputo and the compelling timing andexecution certainty that it provides, particularly compared tothe highly conditional Murray Goulburn proposal," WCB ChairmanTerry Richardson said in a statement.
WCB also said it intended to declare and pay specialdividends of up to A$1.31 per share if Saputo reaches certainthresholds that would allow it to distribute certain tax creditsto WCB shareholders.
Bega on Thursday raised its cash and share bid for WCB to$461 million and did not attach conditions to its offer likeother suitors.
Murray Goulburn offered A$9 cash per share, conditional onwinning majority control and approval from competitionregulators.
WCB shares closed at A$9.10 on Thursday before it requesteda trading halt. Bega shares were 2.9 percent higher at A$4.58. ($1 = 1.0755 Australian dollars) (Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing byStephen Coates and Elaine Hardcastle)
- Investment & Company Information