Japan's Kansai Paint said on Thursday it now owns nearly 69 percent of Freeworld Coatings, likely solidifying its bid to take over the South African paint firm.

Kansai and Freeworld have been locked in a public dispute over the bid since December, when the Japanese firm said it would pay 1.8 billion rand for the remaining 72 percent in Freeworld it didn't already own.

Freeworld's board has said the offer price of 12 rand per share is reasonable, but that the deal raises competition concerns. Freeworld has also said the offer deadline of February 18 does not provide enough time for potential counter bidders and is unfair to shareholders.

It has brought an appeal before South African regulators, although there has yet to be any decision.

Kansai has said such arguments are without foundation.

Kansai said as of Thursday, shareholders representing more than 56 percent of the target shares have accepted the offer, effectively giving it a 68.7 percent stake in the company.

Reuters first reported in October that Kansai had acquired the stake in Freeworld and was looking for at least a majority control.

Kansai acquired the bulk of its initial stake from private equity firm Brait, after a Brait-led management buyout of the company was rejected by shareholders. The Brait bid valued Freeworld at 10.45 rand per share, compared with Kansai's bid of 12 rand.

Shares of Freeworld finished up 0.9 percent at 11.43 rand before the announcement. Johannesburg's All-share index index finished up 1 percent.