Goodman Fielder gets ultimatum

TIM HUNTER
Last updated 11:26 16/05/2014

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The board of trans-Tasman bread and milk company Goodman Fielder has been given until 10pm to support a sweetened takeover offer.

Singaporean palm oil trader Wilmar International and Hong Kong-based bid partner First Pacific revealed a boost to their offer price last night  from A65c to A70c a share.

The offer came with strings attached. It required the Goodman board to allow due diligence and publicly advise shareholders to vote in favour of the deal by the deadline, which is 8pm Melbourne time.

Wilmar and First Pacific said they would not increase their offer, unless a competing proposal came along. The A70c deal values Goodman Fielder's equity at A$1.369 billion ($1.480 billion).

First Pacific also revealed that two Goodman shareholders, Perpetual and Ellerston Capital, had agreed to sell a 9.8 per cent stake into the offer if Goodman's board approved it.

Wilmar already owns 10.1 per cent of the food company, whose brands include Edmonds and Nature's Fresh.

Goodman Fielder yesterday asked for a halt on its share trading in Australia ''pending an announcement ... in relation to information received by the company in respect of a potential change of control transaction which is under consideration by the company''.

Last month Goodman Fielder revealed it had received a non-binding conditional takeover proposal at A65c a share from Wilmar and First Pacific. The board said the offer "materially undervalues Goodman Fielder and is opportunistic".

Since then there has been increasing speculation that Goodman Fielder would sell its New Zealand dairy business separately. It has appointed investment bank Credit Suisse to advise on options for the Kiwi unit.

Wilmar and First Pacific have threatened to walk away if Goodman sells any of its businesses, but already some buyers have expressed interest.

Dairy group Parmalat has said the NZ dairy business is of strategic interest.

The business is a significant player in the New Zealand dairy market, delivering its milk and cheese brands such as Meadow Fresh, Puhoi Valley and Tararua to about 13,000 locations nationwide daily.

Latest results filed to the New Zealand Companies Office show it had annual revenue of $490 million and earnings before interest and tax of $43m.

Goodman Fielder shares last traded in Australia at A67.5c, or 73c on the NZX.

The trading halt is to be in place until an announcement is made to the market or the start of trading on Monday.

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