Wiseman concedes Unigate tug-of-war

12 May 2000

Wiseman concedes Unigate tug-of-war

SCOTTISH dairy giant Robert Wiseman Dairies has withdrawn from the battle to take over Unigates cheese and dairy business.

This clears the way for rival Dairy Crest to win control of the business, after it topped Wisemans 240 million bid last week by 10m.

Dairy Crest had twice been forced to increase its offer in a see-saw struggle with Wiseman.

Alan Wiseman, chairman of the Scottish firm told BBC Online: “We had a strong interest in the Unigate dairy business, but only at a price which we could justify to our shareholders.

“We will continue to pursue our expansion plans in the south of England through the opening of the UKs largest dairy facility at Droitwich in spring 2001.”

Another Wiseman spokesman called the companys withdrawal from the takeover battle “a graceful retreat”.

In March Unigate agreed to sell its dairy operation to Dairy Crest for 220m.

Then, in a move which caught many observers by surprise, Robert Wiseman topped that with a 225m offer.

But Dairy Crest regained the upper hand after increasing its offer to 235m, in a deal agreed by the Unigate board.

This was trumped by a 240m Wiseman bid, before Dairy Crest came back last Friday (05 May) with the decisive 250m offer.

Under Dairy Crests revised offer, which includes the transfer of 100m Unigate debt, Unigate shareholders can choose to receive either 0.33 of Dairy Crest shares or 65p in cash for each share.

The competition has benefited Unigate shareholders, as recently the value of Dairy Crests original bid had fallen to 200m.

Earlier this month, the Competition Commission said Robert Wiseman has been operating a monopoly in Scotland.

In an initial three-month inquiry it found that the company currently controls up to 85% of the Scotlands milk market.

Now the commission must decide whether Wiseman carried out any “uncompetitive” practices or had “exploited” its position.

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