GREEN LIGHT TIPPED FOR MG DEAL

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

THE fu­ture for Tas­ma­nia’s Mur­ray Goul­burn sup­pli­ers is now look­ing more cer­tain af­ter share­hold­ers and Aus­tralia’s com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog gave Sa­puto fi­nal ap­proval to buy the em­bat­tled co-op­er­a­tive.

On Wed­nes­day, the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion said it was giv­ing ap­proval for the $1.3 bil­lion takeover deal to go ahead.

Yes­ter­day MG share­hold­ers also gave the Sa­puto deal the green light at an ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing held in Mel­divest bourne, with 98 per cent vot­ing in favour.

How­ever, the deal must still gain ap­proval by the For­eign In­vest­ment Re­view Board.

If it does, the sale is ex­pected to be com­pleted by May 1.

Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion dairy coun­cilk chair­man Andrew Lester said the deal would be good for MG sup­pli­ers.

In a state­ment, the ACCC said it would not op­pose Cana­dian giant Sa­puto’s pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion of Mur­ray Goul­burn’s as­sets af­ter it ac­cepted an un­der­tak­ing from Sa­puto to the Koroit plant in Vic­to­ria.

Sa­puto al­ready owns the War­rnam­bool Cheese and But­ter fac­tory in the same re­gion of south­west­ern Vic­to­ria.

The ACCC had pre­vi­ously raised con­cerns about a pos­si­ble lack of com­pe­ti­tion for farm­ers’ milk if Sa­puto were to op­er­ate both of the re­gion’s two largest milk pro­ces­sors.

In re­sponse to the ACCC’s con­cerns, Sa­puto of­fered a legally en­force­able un­der­tak­ing that it would di­vest the Koroit plant. It will be sold within a spec­i­fied pe­riod to a buyer which will need to be ap­proved by the com­mis­sion.

ACCC chair­man Rod Sims said Sa­puto’s un­der­tak­ing had reme­died con­cerns about the Koroit plant.

“The un­der­tak­ing cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for a vi­able com­pet­ing milk pro­ces­sor to en­ter or ex­pand in the lo­cal re­gion,” he said.

“When ap­prov­ing a new owner of Koroit, we will fo­cus on its abil­ity to be a strong and ef­fec­tive com­peti­tor for raw milk in the re­gion.”

In Tas­ma­nia, about 17 per cent of the state’s milk is sup­plied to MG and pro­cessed at the com­pany's Smith­ton fac­tory.

Mr Lester said most of the co-op­er­a­tive’s Tas­ma­nian sup­pli­ers would see the sale of as­sets to Sa­puto as a pos­i­tive move.

“They’ve been op­er­at­ing War­rnam­bool Cheese and But­ter for a while now and they’ve demon­strated through that they’re a rep­utable com­pany,” he said.

“They’ve also worked with the in­dus­try on is­sues like an­i­mal wel­fare and I think this sale shows they want to be a key player in the Aus­tralian in­dus­try over the long term.”

Mr Lester said the pur­chase should also help im­prove com­pe­ti­tion for milk in the North­West of the state.

This sale shows Sa­puto wants to be a key player in the Aus­tralian in­dus­try over the long term

ANDREW LESTER

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