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China's CIC to back bid for Australia's Warrnambool - report

Thursday, 26 Dec 2013 | 5:05 PM ET

SYDNEY, Dec 27 (Reuters) - China Investment Corporation, an investment fund owned by the Chinese government, is backing a Chinese food company that is considering bidding for Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Holdings Co, the Business Spectator reported on Friday, without citing any sources or naming the company.

Bega Cheese, which has an 18.7 percent stake in Warrnambool, could be enticed to sell to a Chinese bidder that offered A$10 a share, the Business Spectator said.

"We are very aware of Chinese interest in Australian dairy assets, but there is a lot of tyre-kicking, and my advice to the buyers if they are serious is: get an investment bank and take their advice," an unnamed senior M&A adviser said.

Because it was early morning in China, a call to CIC for comment was not returned.

Bega, which kicked off the takeover war with a bid in mid-September, let its final bid close last week.

Warrnambool is backing a bid from Canada's Saputo Inc , worth as much as A$9.60 per share, or A$549 million ($488 million), if it receives acceptances of 90 percent or more of its shareholders. Earlier this month, Warrnambool said it will double its first-half earnings.

A third bidder, Murray Goulburn Co-operative Group Ltd, has offered A$9.50 per share in a bid subject to a ruling from the Australian Competition Tribunal.