AUSTRALIAN business icon Dick Smith has weighed in on Bega Cheese’s failed bid to take over Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, calling it “terrible for Australia”.
This week Canadian dairy company Saputo trumped Bega Cheese’s takeover bid for WCB by offering $7 a share, which valued the company at $392.7million.
The WCB board recommended on Wednesday its shareholders accept the offer.
The board’s directors had already unanimously recommended shareholders reject Bega Cheese's offer, made in September, of 1.2 Bega shares and $2 cash for each WCB share, labeling the $320million offer “inadequate”.
Bega Cheese currently owns 18 per cent of WCB.
Saputo’s offer took Bega Cheese by surprise, but the company did not try to match the bid this week.
Instead, Bega Cheese executive chairman Barry Irvin tried to sell their offer as a chance to form a “strong and competitive Australian dairy company”.
“We will continue to pursue our current offer because we believe our bid is very meritorious,” he said.
“It will merge Bega Cheese, Tatura Milk and Warrnambool Cheese and Butter into one very strong and very competitive dairy company, which is what the Australian dairy industry needs.
“Long term, this is the better offer and this something we believe in, that it’s better to keep the company in Australian hands.”
The sentiment was echoed by Australian entrepreneur and Buy Australia activist Dick Smith.
Mr Smith is a vocal critic of foreign ownership and spoke with the BDN about the Saputo offer on Wednesday.
He called the Warrnambool Butter and Cheese board’s rejection of the Bega Cheese offer “terrible for Australia”.
“I had publicly urged the WCB shareholders to consider the ramifications of what they were doing in accepting the Saputo offer,” Mr Smith said.
“However, with the WCB board now recommending its shareholders go with the Canadians it now seems like it’s a fait accompli.
“It’s just terrible to think another Australian company will be in the hands of foreign multinationals.
“Australia’s companies and its future are being sold off.
“It’s the difference between renting and buying, Australians are now renting their own products and all the profits are going to the Northern Hemisphere.
“It’s disastrous for Australia, it’s short-term thinking about profit and I hope Warrnambool has a change of heart.
“It saddens me Warrnambool did not accept the Bega Cheese offer and I now fear for a company like Bega itself, it could be the next one to fall to foreign ownership,” Mr Smith said.
FRESH MILK FOR NEEDY FAMILIES
BEGA Cheese is helping needy families throughout Australia by contributing to Foodbank.
Foodbank is the largest food relief charity in Australia providing food for 88,000 meals a day to people in hardship.
At a function held at the Foodbank Victoria warehouse recently, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh praised Bega Cheese and Tatura Milk Industries (a wholly owned subsidiary of Bega Cheese) for recognising the severity of the problem and looking to do something about it by contributing to Foodbank’s milk donation program.
“For the past two years Bega Cheese and Tatura Milk Industries have been part of a group of dairy companies who, in collaboration with the Federal Government, packaging companies and other corporate supporters, have donated over 3.5million litres of fresh and long life milk to Foodbank,” Minister Walsh said.
“This milk has been distributed to 2500 agencies, charities and community groups to help feed hungry and struggling Australians.”
Tatura Milk Industries supplier and Bega Cheese director Rick Cross said Tatura and Bega were proud to be part of the program.
“We are always conscious of supporting community organisations and helping people who find themselves in difficult circumstances,” he said.
Foodbank collects and distributes 25,000 tonnes of food enough for 32million meals each year.
Farmers, manufacturers and retailers donate food and groceries including stock that is surplus to need, close to expiry date or out of specification.
In addition Foodbank, partners with companies to manufacture essential staple products.
The food goes to charities and community groups who use it to provide home hampers and emergency relief packages as well as meals in hostels, shelters, drop-in centres and schools.