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Serving: WI

Saputo Cheese enters agreement to buy Alto Dairy

Co-op members to meet Feb. 27 to vote on offer.

Alto Dairy announced Wednesday, Jan. 30 that it has entered into an agreement to sell its assets to Saputo Cheese USA Inc. for $160 million. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by Alto's board of directors, is subject to the approval of the members of the cooperative. A special meeting of the members will be held in Fond du Lac on Feb. 27 to vote whether to approve the offer or turn it down.

According to Saputo, Alto Dairy had sales of $378 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. However, cooperative members received annual dividends from Alto Dairy just once in the last five years.

"Alto Dairy is an industry leader and we have a solid strategy for our business, making the cooperative attractive to strategic partners and buyers. The cooperative will receive full market-value for its business and we are looking forward to presenting this opportunity to our members," said Rich Scheuerman, Alto Dairy's president and chief executive officer.

"Saputo has extensive dairy experience with facilities in Canada, Argentina, Germany, United Kingdom and across the United States, which will undoubtedly help Alto Dairy's manufacturing facilities grow in the future. This deal will only improve the long-term viability of the business, provide increased job stability and a stable home for milk for dairy producers in Wisconsin," said Scheuerman.

"Assuming the sale is approved, our members will have a strong partner in Saputo with the ability to reinvest in our manufacturing facilities," said Howard Zellmer, chairman of the Alto board of directors.
Alto Dairy is owned by 3,200 members, 500 who are active voting members and ship their milk to the 114-year-old cooperative. The acquisition is not expected to impact the jobs of Alto Dairy's 467 employees who work at the cooperative.

If the sale is approved, members would no longer be shareholders and would be paid out for their equity.
Alto is known for it's award-winning American- and Italian-style cheeses that made daily at the cooperative's plants in Alto and Black Creek. Cheese and whey produced at Alto Dairy are marketed nationwide under a variety of brand names and private labels.

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