U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 22 mins

Bega re-enters battle for Australia's WCB

SYDNEY, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Bega Cheese Ltd, the biggest shareholder in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd, raised its cash and share bid for the Australian dairy company on Thursday, re-entering a three-way takeover battle.

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

That falls just short of the latest A$9 per share cash offer from fellow shareholder Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd but is 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 its high-tech milk extracts is rising strongly.

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

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