Dec 11 (Reuters) - Australia's Takeovers Panel will order Canadian dairy Saputo Inc to raise its bid for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter as early as this week, a report by Business Spectator said.
The story, posted on the website of The Australian newspaper, said the panel would order Saputo to raise its offer to A$9.56 a share from A$9. Saputo said last month it would raise it to A$9.20 in cash if it won more than 50 percent acceptances for its offer.
Montreal-based Saputo is in a three-way battle with Australian rivals Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd and Bega Cheese Ltd for Warrnambool, which is Australia's oldest dairy company. Acquisition of WCB is seen as strategic for Saputo, which would gain a platform for sales into China.
The Takeovers Panel put Saputo's bid on hold on Nov. 29, ruling that it must stop processing acceptances for its offer.
Murray Goulburn and Bega Cheese Ltd argue that Saputo's revised offer reduces proposed dividends by A$1.31 per share and means shareholders will not have access to A$0.56 in franking credits, or tax credits used to reduce tax payable on dividend distributions.
Saputo spokeswoman Sandy Vassiadis said the company had no comment. Spokespersons for the Takeovers Panel could not be reached for comment immediately.
Saputo shares were down more than 1 percent in early trading in Toronto on Wednesday at C$47.51. Warrnambool shares closed down 0.4 percent.