* Murray Goulburn sells 18 pct stake to Canada's Saputo
* Acceptance triggers rise in offer to A$9.40/share
* Kirin last major holdout with near 10 pct stake
* Kirin says "no current intention" to sell
By Maggie Lu Yueyang
SYDNEY, Jan 23 Australia's Murray Goulburn
Co-operative Co Ltd agreed to sell its 17.7 percent stake in
Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd
to rival bidder Saputo Inc, finally bowing out of the
hotly contested bidding battle.
Murray Goulburn's capitulation cleared another hurdle for
Saputo to take over Warrnambool, which is seen as a platform for
the Canadian dairy maker to tap growing demand in Asia for both
traditional dairy products and high-tech milk extracts.
Eyes are now on Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Co
Ltd, which holds a 10 percent stake in Warrnambool
through its local unit Lion and has an important cheese making
and packaging partnership.
A Lion spokesman said the company has no plan to accept
Saputo's offer, posing as the last hurdle for the Canadian
company to take full control of Warrnambool.
"Lion has no current intention to accept Saputo's takeover
offer in relation to WCB," a Lion spokesman told Reuters. "Lion
looks forward to continuing to strengthen its relationship with
WCB," he said.
Saputo had already won majority control in Warrnambool after
former rival bidder Bega Cheese Ltd gave it a leg-up
last week by selling its 18.8 percent stake to the Canadian
Murray Goulburn's sale will lift Saputo's stake in
Australia's oldest dairy firm to 75.4 percent, triggering a 20
cent rise in its offer price to A$9.40 per share or A$526
million ($465.96 million).
If Saputo reaches 90 percent acceptances, the offer will
rise again to A$9.60 per share, or A$537 million. The Saputo
offer has been extended to Feb. 4 after reaching the control
Murray Goulburn, which offered A$9.50 per share, or A$532
million, for Warrnambool said it intended to seek regulatory
consent to withdraw its bid and then accept Saputo's offer.
The Murray Goulburn offer was conditional on acceptances of
50 percent and on regulatory approval that is not due until next
"In light of Saputo acquiring a controlling interest in
(Warrnambool) we have an obligation to our co-operative
shareholders to maximise the financial outcome," Murray Goulburn
managing director Gary Helou said in a statement.
The company will receive cash proceeds of at least A$92.9
million from the sale and a gain on its investment of A$51
million before tax and costs.