Australia's Tassal Group rejects $720 mln buyout bid from Cooke

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  • Tassal shares rise as much as 16%, eye best day ever
  • Cooke offer represents 22.2% premium to Tassal's last close
  • Offer does not reflect fundamental value of group - Tassal board

June 28 (Reuters) - Tassal Group (TGR.AX) on Tuesday rejected a sweetened takeover offer from Canadian aquaculture company Cooke Inc that valued the Australian seafood supplier at A$1.04 billion ($719.89 million), sending its shares sharply higher.

Shares of Tassal jumped more than 16% to A$4.610 and were on track their best session ever after the announcement, while the broader market (.AXJO) climbed 0.1%.

Cooke offered A$4.85 per share, a 22.2% premium to the stock's last closing price of A$3.970 on Monday, in its latest bid which came a day after the Canadian company said it had bought a 5.4% stake in Tassal.

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The Hobart, Australia-based salmon producer said Cooke had earlier sweetened its offer to A$4.80 per share from A$4.67 apiece.

Tassal said its board rejected the offers as they did not reflect the fundamental value of its business and were not in the best interest of its shareholders.

The company has an attractive independent future and is well positioned to deliver growth in shareholder value, Tassal added.

Cooke, however, said the revised bid was particularly attractive, "considering Tassal's salmon volumes have been maximised given restrictions on new marine farming leases."

The government of island state Tasmania, home to most of Australia's salmon industry including Tassal, recently put a moratorium on leased farming areas after an inquiry raised environmental concerns.

The Canadian company, which has a turnover of C$2.4 billion ($1.87 billion) a year, said it intended to engage with Tassal's board of directors regarding the deal.

($1 = 1.4447 Australian dollars)

($1 = 1.2862 Canadian dollars)

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Reporting by Tejaswi Marthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Subhranshu Sahu

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