Thais snap up sugar mill shares

WITH just a week to go before the deadline on Mitr Phol's takeover of MSF Sugar, the Thai company has acquired 35% of shares.

Mitr Phol put forward a $313 million cash bid for the Maryborough company in November last year and shareholders have until next Friday to sell their shares at $4.45 each.

Unless the Thai company - one of the world's largest sugar producers - can gain a controlling interest of 50.1% by that date, the sale will not go ahead.

While all directors have signed over their stakes, the remaining shareholders may have held off selling in hope of a better offer coming along at the last minute.

MSF Sugar directors advised from the start that the offer should be accepted with no other offer on the horizon, and there is little time left for a competitor to swoop and rival Mitr Phol.

But there could be hope for a last-minute rush, with thousands of shares changing hands yesterday.

In a form lodged with ASX yesterday, the company announced it now held 35.75% of shares - up from 31.72% the day before.

The company clearly has high hopes that the sale will proceed, and a spokesman for Mitr Phol described shareholder feedback as "overwhelmingly positive".

"MSF and Mitr Phol are jointly working to encourage shareholders to accept this offer as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

"We look forward to the continued good flow of acceptances enabling the transaction to be completed and allowing payments going to shareholders as soon as possible."

If the sale proceeds, the company has hinted a bio-mass power plant or an ethanol plant could be built at Maryborough.

Mitr Phol president and chief executive Krisda Monthienvichienchai commented that the company hopes to move into biomass power plants and biofuels to increase value from the Australian mills.

The sale would mean only a handful of independent mills will be left in Australian hands, with every major sugar company except Mackay Sugar run by overseas interests.

The remaining eight Australian-owned mills are independent operations.

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