Australian food firm Goodman Fielder accepts Asian bid

Asian consortium lifts bid for Australian food manufacturer

Sydney (AFP) - Australian food manufacturer Goodman Fielder on Friday accepted a sweetened Aus$1.37 billion (US$1.28 billion) takeover bid from an Asian consortium after rejecting an earlier offer.

Goodman Fielder's board accepted the increased offer of 70 cents a share, from 65 cents, by Singapore-based agribusiness Wilmar International and Hong Kong-based investment manager First Pacific Company late Friday after going into a trading halt on Thursday.

First Pacific and Wilmar had set a deadline of 8:00 pm (1000 GMT) for the Australia company's board to support the higher bid and open up Goodman Fielder's financial records for inspection.

Steve Gregg, the chairman of the Australian firm, which owns food brands including Helga's, MeadowLea and Wonder White, said "in the absence of a superior proposal and subject to various conditions, we believe this revised proposal ... (generates) the best outcome which maximised value for our shareholders".

It added: "We believe this revised proposal also demonstrates the strength of our underlying business and brands but also the opportunity to leverage these assets to grow the business across the Asian region."

First Pacific and Wilmar said earlier they had entered into agreements with two of Goodman Fielder's largest shareholders, Ellerston Capital and Perpetual Investments, to buy 4.8 percent of their stakes.

The two Asian companies already hold a 10.1 percent share in Goodman Fielder and said they had rights to a further five percent if the new bid was accepted.

Goodman Fielder's management turned down a previous joint bid in April, calling it "opportunistic" and saying it undervalued the food group. The company's share price last traded at 67.2 cents.

The struggling firm recently issued a profit downgrade and brought forward plans to axe 300 jobs in a bid to reduce Aus$25 million in costs.

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