As Canadian dairy behemoth Saputo emerges victorious from the takeover battle for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, the two snubbed Australian suitors are cashed-up and squaring up for a new fight between themselves.
Bega Cheese and Murray Goulburn are hungry for growth opportunities after both failed to claim Warrnambool Cheese and Butter in a three-way contest that went much higher and lasted much longer than any expected.
Saputo now has more than 75 per cent of Warrnambool and will pay at least $9.40 and possibly $9.60 a share to sellers.
That values the Victorian processor at between $526 million and $537 million; four months ago, when the takeover fight began, it was worth around $250 million.
Murray Goulburn, which on Thursday ended its ownership ambitions and sold its 17.7 per cent Warrnambool stake to the foreigners, will realise at least $51 million from the sale.
Bega Cheese sold its 18.8 per cent holding to Saputo on January 16 and will pocket up to $68.2 million.
Both firms have said they will seek new opportunities with their money and industry expectation is that another round of acquisitions in the fragmented dairy industry is on the way.
Kidder Williams head David Williams, corporate adviser to Bega, said the dairy battle had lifted Bega's market capitalisation above $700 million - in part because of the value of its Warrnambool holding but also because of a fundamental re-rating of the dairy industry.
Firms with the ability to export to China are now considered much more valuable targets.
"There may well be some other acquisitions to be done - there's nothing on the horizon but there's plenty of things that we think are interesting," Mr Williams said.
Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou called Saputo's victory a "lost opportunity" for Australian dairy and said he remained committed to pursuing consolidation opportunities.
Mr Helou also signalled another potential outcome that could benefit farmers: a lift in milk prices.
Saputo may not have a clear run while the Australian firms scuffle in its wake, however, with one analyst saying Murray Goulburn could seek to put pressure on the newcomer by raising milk prices and luring away suppliers.
Shane Kelly, principal of agriculture corporate advisory firm Latitude 232, said the only avenue open to Murray Goulburn if it wanted to avenge its loss to Saputo was to take market share for milk supply by offering higher prices.
Such a strategy, Mr Kelly said, would be "effectively forcing Saputo to pay more money for milk".
On Thursday Mr Helou said Murray Goulburn, as the nation's largest dairy food company, was committed to creating a globally significant dairy player and called for dairy farmers to consider joining his cooperative group as suppliers.