* China's CIC reportedly backing a Chinese bid for
* Bega open to talks on its Warrnambool stake with
interested investors - source
* Bega only to consider offer for its stake if bid above
A$9.5/share - source
By Maggie Lu Yueyang
SYDNEY, Dec 27 Bega Cheese Ltd is in talks with
"non-Australian" investors on a possible sale of its stake in
Australia's oldest dairy firm, a source familiar with the
situation said, adding a new twist to one of the country's most
contested takeover battles in years.
Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Co
has been the takeover target for Bega, fellow
Australian cheese maker Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd and
Canadian dairy giant Saputo Inc, as investors bet on
rising Asian demand for Australian dairy products.
Bega, the biggest shareholder in Warrnambool, kicked off the
takeover war in mid-September but decided last week not to
extend its final offer after being out-bid by its rivals. It is
currently considering what to do with its 18.7 percent stake,
the source told Reuters on Friday.
People think Bega will sell either to Murray Goulburn or to
Saputo, but it has been approached by other companies including
non-Australian firms since closing its bid, said the source, who
was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.
China's sovereign wealth fund CIC is backing a
Chinese food company that is considering bidding for
Warrnambool, the Business Spectator website reported on Friday,
without citing any sources or identifying the company.
Bega could be enticed to sell to a Chinese bidder that
offered A$10 a share, Business Spectator said.
A call to CIC seeking comments was not returned, while
officials at Warrnambool and Bega were not immediately available
Warrnambool is backing a bid from Saputo worth as much as
A$9.60 per share, or A$549 million ($488 million), if it
receives acceptances of 90 percent or more of its shareholders.
Murray Goulburn has offered A$9.50 per share in a bid
subject to a ruling from the Australian Competition Tribunal.
Bega wouldn't want to be entertaining a third party unless
the price was above A$9.50, the source said.
Earlier this month, Warrnambool said it will double its
first-half earnings thanks to strong international dairy demand
and pricing, a falling Australian dollar and an improved product