Murray Goulburn cries foul

Dairy cooperative Murray Goulburn has sought to stop its rival, Saputo, acquiring shares in takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, alleging a recent change in the Saputo offer means some WCB shareholders were misinformed.

The Takeovers Panel has received an application from Murray Goulburn seeking interim orders stopping Saputo processing acceptances of its offer for Warrnambool shares and from acquiring Warrnambool shares on-market.

Murray Goulburn has also sought to have Warrnambool ordered to reinstate special dividends and Saputo blocked from varying its bid.

Canadian-headquartered Saputo is leading the bidding war for Warrnambool, with the $9.20 offer maintaining the support of the Warrnambool board.

Saputo lifted its offer from $9 a share on November 25 and in the process Warrnambool scrapped conditions that would have paid accepting shareholders special dividends of 46 cents and 85 cents a share.

Franking credits worth 56 cents a share were associated with the dividends.

In a statement, the Takeovers Panel said Murray Goulburn submits that the abandonment of the special dividends meant Saputo’s bid would not conform with previous announcements, contrary to truth in takeovers policy.

Murray Goulburn also alleges that shares traded before November 25 were traded “on the basis of misinformation” that franking credits would be available.

Murray Goulburn has sought final orders that the special dividends be reinstated and that Saputo not be allowed to vary its offer conditions after it increased its bid to $9.20.

The Takeovers Panel said no decision had been made on whether to conduct proceedings over Murray Goulburn’s complaint.

In a statement, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter said it disagreed with the basis of Murray Goulburn’s complaint and would respond in accordance with Panel procedures.

Saputo also announced it has built its stake in Warrnambool to 4.799 per cent.

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter shares were down one cent to $9.25 at 1143 AEDT.

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