The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it will not stand in the way of ports and transport operator Asciano being bought out by a global consortium, nor it will it block Metcash’s possible Home Timber & Hardware takeover.
Asciano’s suitors include local stevedoring firm Qube, and Canadian infrastructure investor Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, which are offering a total of $9.1 billion, that has been accepted by Qube.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s chairman Rod Sims said the regulator had conducted extensive inquiries into the deal, but decided give it the green light after the takeover bid was restructured to tackle competition concerns.
“A broad range of issues were raised across different aspects of the supply chain,” he noted in a statement.
“After careful consideration, the ACCC has concluded there is not likely to be a substantial lessening of competition in any market.”
The ACCC’s investigation looked at the import-export supply chain for containerised freight through the ports of Botany, Brisbane, Fremantle and Melbourne.
It asked whether the integration of Asciano’s Patrick container terminals with Qube’s road and rail container transport services and empty container parks would discriminate against Qube’s competitors and cause a potential loss of business for rival stevedores.
Mr Sims said the ACCC identified several restrictions on the ability of Patrick to discriminate in favour of Qube trains at Botany port.
“The combined strength of these constraints has led us to conclude that the acquisition would not cause an increase in prices or a reduction in the quality of regional rail container export services to Port Botany,” he said.
The takeover still needs the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).
Asciano shares jumped on news of the ACCC’s approval and were up 0.8 per cent to $9.12 at 11:00am (AEST).
Qube shares rose nearly 3 per cent to $2.42.
Metcash given green light for Home takeover
Meanwhile, the competition watchdog also said it will not oppose a bid from grocery and hardware supplier Metcash to buy rival hardware chain Home Timber & Hardware Group (HTHG) from Woolworths, which owns the HTHG and Thrifty-Link stores.
That is after Metcash agreed to an undertaking stipulating it would not restrict independent hardware stores from buying stock from stories not owned by Metcash.
An independent auditor will report back to the ACCC to make sure Metcash sticks to the agreement.
Metcash owns the Mitre 10 chain and True Value Hardware stores and is a wholesaler of hardware, building materials and home improvement supplies to independent hardware retailers.
The ACCC said it was a difficult decision to approve the sale.
“We had concerns about Metcash acquiring its only rival full-service wholesaler,” the ACCC explained on its website.
“In our market inquiries, we got a lot of feedback from hardware store retailers in particular, largely supporting the bid but with some voicing concerns as well.”
Metcash shares rose to a one-month high of $2.20, before falling half a per cent to $2.06.
Woolworths shares gained 1 per cent to $22.77.