20 April 2000
Wiseman in formal bid for Unigate

By FWi staff

ROBERT WISEMAN Dairies has announced a formal offer worth 225 million to buy Unigates dairy and cheese business.

As widely expected, the offer consists of 125m to be payable to Unigate shareholders – equal to around 54p per share – and 100m to cover debt.

However, rival Dairy Crest , which made an offer with shares in February now worth around 205m pounds, said it was considering its position.

“Our offer not only values the Unigate Dairy business at significantly more than the Dairy Crest merger proposal, but also offers the certainty of a full cash payment,” said Wiseman chairman Alan Wiseman.

The Financial Times website reports that Dairy Crest has urged Unigate shareholders to take no action on the deal.

Dairy Crests original offer includes the issue of 75.7 million shares and assumption of 100m in debt from Unigate.

The company has already indicated a willingness to add a cash offer to its bid, edging the total package towards 240m.

In February, Unigate announced the deal to sell its liquid milk and cheese arm to Dairy Crest.

This would give Dairy Crest first or second position in every dairy sector and double its size to a turnover of around 1.6bn, reports the FT.

Analysts were shocked by the Wiseman bid as the Scots company was bidding for a company three times its size, geographically distant and which would take it into largely new areas.

Some commentators have suggested Wiseman is simply being “canny and opportunistic”, believing Unigate will sell the business cheap, allowing it to gain national coverage at a stroke.