Singapore-listed Wilmar gets Australian watchdog's nod for Goodman Felder bid

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Mainboard-listed Wilmar International said on Tuesday morning that it has received approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board for its A$1.34 billion (S$1.49 billion) joint bid with Hong Kong's First Pacific for food manufacturer Goodman Fielder.

The approval brings Wilmar and Hong Kong investment manager First Pacific Company one step closer to taking over the company, although the deal still needs approval from China's commerce ministry.

"The Foreign Investment Review Board has notified Wilmar International and First Pacific Company that it has no objection to the proposal from Wilmar and First Pacific to acquire 100 per cent of Goodman Fielder via a scheme of arrangement," Wilmar said in a statement.

"Goodman Fielder advises that Wilmar and First Pacific are continuing to progress the other regulatory approvals required in connection with the scheme."

The Australian firm - which owns food brands including Helga's, MeadowLea and Wonder White - said in September that the process of obtaining approval from China "is likely to take longer than initially anticipated".

The bid was approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in late September.

A shareholder meeting to approve the offer of 67.5 Australian cents a share is expected to take place in the first three months of 2015, Goodman Fielder said.

The company's board previously accepted a takeover offer of 70 cents a share from First Pacific and Wilmar in mid-May, which valued the company at A$1.37 billion.

But after due diligence checks, the two Asian companies pushed for a lower price.

Goodman Fielder reported a net loss of A$405.1 million in the year to June 30 as it recorded a pre-tax impairment of A$358.2 million, mostly from its baking division.

The loss followed a net profit of A$102.5 million in the previous year.