By: Bob Meyer
The bidding war over an Australian cheese and butter company has another player. Kirin Holdings Company, Japan’s largest beverage maker has purchased 9.99 percent of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Company.
The whole thing started when Australia’s Bega Cheese made a cash-and-stock bid for Warrnambool worth about $5.75 per share in September. Canada’s Saputo Incorporated jumped in and offered a cash deal of $7 per share in early October. The following week another Aussie cooperative, Murry Goulburn then offered $7.50 per share. Saputo increased their offer to $8 last Friday and has been meeting with Australian farmers who hold 30 to 40 percent of the WCB stock.
Adding to the mix, Murry Goulburn already owns 17 percent of Warrnambool, Bega owns 18 percent and now with Kirin Holdings acquiring 9.99 percent the three could unite in an effort to block a sale to Saputo.
Warrnambool has two operations in Australia employing more than 400 people making 143,000 metric tons of cheese, milk powder and infant formula ingredients per year. What makes the company so attractive is its markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Warrnambool’s stock price has nearly doubled since Bega’s first bid was made in September.
Saputo is the second-largest dairy processor in North America with plants in Canada and the United States. It also has operations in Europe and Argentina and sells products in more than 40 countries.