Saputo Inc. has once again increased its stake in the Australian dairy producer at the centre of a drawn-out takeover battle.
Montreal-based Saputo firmed up its status as the biggest shareholder of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, with its stake rising to 26.4 per cent from 21.4 per cent, according to a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday.
Saputo increased its stake twice last week, initially to 20.14 per cent and then to 21.4 per cent.
The cheese-processing giant also confirmed a few days ago that it has extended its $550-million (U.S.) takeover bid for Warrnambool by about two weeks to Jan. 22.
A recent Australian news report said that United Dairy Power, the country's largest privately owned milk processor, has decided to back Saputo's takeover proposal.
Saputo is fighting a rival bid from Australian dairy company Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co. Ltd..
The offer from Saputo has the support of Warrnambool's board and is valued at $9.20 (AU) per share. That would rise to $9.40 per share if Saputo clinches 75 per cent or more of Warrnambool.
If Saputo wins at least 90 per cent, it will pay $9.60 per share.
Murray Goulburn is offering $9.50 per share, but that is conditional on winning the support of the Australian Competition Tribunal.
Saputo reached a friendly agreement to buy Warrnambool – Australia's oldest dairy processor – in October and its bid has been cleared by Australian regulators.