Three bidders to battle it out for Dairy Farmers

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd July 2008

The battle for ownership of Dairy Farmers is now between three contenders, according to reports.

The Australian Financial Review believes that Canadian firm Saputo has entered the fray and will now compete with Parmalat and National Foods to purchase the Australian co-operative. The three companies are believed to have submitted formal bids on Friday for the company valued at up to $1b.

For months, Saputo, Canada’s largest cheese maker and the world’s 15th largest dairy processor, had been rumoured to be considering entering the bidding but the company has remained coy about their intentions. Unlike the two other bidders they have not needed to seek approval from the ACCC as they do not have extensive operations in Australia. They would, however, still require clearance from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Dairy Farmers is intent on keeping quiet the details of the bidders but claim that interest is strong in the company. “The Dairy Farmers liquidity options process continues to gather momentum, with a high level of interest from a range of local and international players,” a spokesman told Reuters.

National Foods will be making a combined bid with Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, while Parmalat has teamed with Murray-Goulburn as they seek to gain control the the Australian dairy co-operative. Fonterra may still join with National Foods to acquire some of the Dairy Farmers businesses, with their desire to own the Ski brand (before they are due to take over ownership in 2012) rumoured to be the main reason behind recent talks with National Foods.

The ACCC is due to make an announcement on Thursday (24 July) indicating their approval, or otherwise, of the Parmalat/M-G and National Foods/WCB proposals.