Canada's Saputo wins majority control of Australia's Warrnambool

SYDNEY Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:02pm EST

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SYDNEY Jan 22 (Reuters) - Canada's Saputo Inc said on Wednesday it has secured majority control of Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd, putting pressure on rival bidder Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co to concede defeat.

Saputo said it had increased its shareholding in Australia's oldest dairy maker to 52.7 percent, giving it control after a months-long battle aimed at tapping growing demand in Asia for both traditional dairy products and high-tech milk extracts.

Murray Goulburn said it would "commercially assess" its 17.7 percent shareholding, noting that Saputo's offer rises to A$9.20 per share from the base A$9.00 per share, or A$515 million ($453.33 million), having reached the 50 percent threshold.

Saputo's offer will rise again to A$9.40 per share on 75 percent acceptances and A$9.60 per share, or A$537 million, on 90 percent acceptances. That top level puts it above Murray Goulburn's A$9.50 per share, or A$532 million, offer, but that is conditional on both acceptances of 50 percent and regulatory approval that is not due until next month.

Former rival bidder Bega Cheese Ltd gave Saputo's offer a leg-up last week when it sold its 18.8 percent stake to the Canadian company.

The Saputo offer, scheduled to close on Wednesday, is automatically extended to Feb. 4 after reaching the control threshold.

($1 = 1.1360 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Jane Wardell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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