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Kirin Buying Australia's Dairy Farmers

Japanese food and beverage company will buy Australia's Dairy Farmers for about $763 million as it seeks to make a global push amid slowing domestic sales.

TOKYO (AP) -- Kirin Holdings Co., a Japanese food and beverage company which is already Australia's biggest milk seller, said Monday it will buy Australia's Dairy Farmers for about $763 million as it seeks to make a global push amid slowing domestic sales.

The purchase by Kirin unit National Foods fortifies the Japanese beverage maker's dominance in a key overseas market and is part of a broader strategy to expand throughout Asia and Oceania.

Dairy Farmers, a cooperative of 2,000 farmers, is Australia's second-biggest maker of dairy products.

"National foods' successful acquisition of ACF would result in the most respected portfolio of dairy brands in Australia," said National Foods Managing Director Ashley Waugh in a statement.

"National Foods has the capability and financial strength to leverage the acquisition of (Dairy Farmers) to create new business opportunities domestically and in the vitally important Asian region -- providing suppliers with secure and growing demand for their milk."

National Foods is proposing cash payment of 5.65 Australian dollars per share, of a total of 884 million Australian dollars.

The deal, which has been unanimously approved by the Dairy Farmers board, is subject to approval by 75 percent of shareholders, the statement said.

Kirin, which is also a major Japanese brewer, entered the Australian dairy business last autumn, when it purchased National Foods from San Miguel Corp. of the Philippines for 294 billion yen ($2.68 billion).

The move came as the Tokyo-based company intensified efforts to diversify operations. Growth in Japan's food and beverage sector has been sluggish, with a shrinking population eroding the overall customer base.

Kirin also owns 46 percent of Australian brewer Lion Nathan Ltd.

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