GrainCorp to acquire Hunter Grain

The acquisition, for $26.5 million (subject to any final purchase adjustments), is part of GrainCorp’s strategy to increase utilisation of port facilities and increase services to the domestic market, as well as to diversify earnings.

Mr Don Taylor, chairman of GrainCorp, says this acquisition complements GrainCorp’s port, international and domestic marketing and road transport capabilities, and provides further expansion into domestic markets on the east and west coasts of Australia. “The synergies in storage and handling, logistics and marketing activities enable GrainCorp to secure new earnings from trading co-products, increasing market share in domestic grain and further utilising the extensive bulk handling infrastructure network.

“This acquisition allows GrainCorp to further diversify into other agri-products and port activities, generating countercyclical earnings during poor seasonal conditions such as we are experiencing now. It also strengthens relationships with existing stockfeed customers through the supply and distribution of imported and domestic feedstuffs” said Mr Taylor.

Hunter Grain is Australia’s largest distributor of imported protein meals principally operating from port distribution centres at Kooragang (Newcastle), Brisbane, Geelong and Perth. Furthermore, it also operates a transport division comprising company-owned and sub-contractor trucks, and a trading business for grain. Hunter Grain has a turnover of $250 million and employs 30 staff with trading offices in Sydney and transport offices at Cowra. Hunter Grain will operate as a discrete business unit of GrainCorp, to be headed by the existing Chief Operating Officer Mr Malcolm Berry, and will continue to trade as Hunter Grain. The acquisition is expected to be completed, subject to customary conditions, by November 2007.

McArthur workers now political hot potato

The federal Workplace Relations Minister has told a group of people protesting outside his office it is up to the New South Wales Government to help owner drivers who worked for failed trucking company McArthur Express.

The Transport Workers Union wants a Federal Government scheme that has secured the wages and entitlements of the company’s employees expanded to include owner drivers and subcontractors.

Joe Hockey told protesters outside his North Sydney office that owner drivers were covered by the state industrial relations system.

Mr Hockey called on the State Government to protect the workers.

"They can’t pass the buck," he said. "They actually have to do their job and they leave poor people like [these people] here out in the lurch.

"I’m not going to let the matter rest and I’m not going to let the State Government off the hook after they demanded responsibility for this area of law and now they are walking away.

"I think that is terrible."

But the NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, says he will not budge, despite a second day of demands by the Federal Government.

He says it is not the State Government’s responsibility to help the owner drivers.

"Mr Hockey is playing political games with these people’s livelihoods," he said.

"He could fix this scheme with the stroke of a pen. He knows the point that they are treated by state legislation and all other practical purposes as employees.

"He’s stubbornly refusing to vary his legislation because he is playing politics with hardworking Australians livelihoods."

Port Kembla govt rail infrastructure handed to port corporation

Port Kembla Port Corporation has taken control of all government rail infrastructure and land in Port Kembla, on the New South Wales south coast, after a transfer from the State Government today.

The transfer involves rail assets, including 25 kilometres of rail track and sidings, being handed over by the Rail Infrastructure Corporation.

The chief executive officer of Port Kembla Port Corporation, Dom Figliomeni, says the network now includes the coal and grain rail systems, as well as the rail link to the new port car handling precinct in the inner harbour.

It was just a matter of time

With seawater running in his veins, it was only a matter of time before Chris Corrigan made an attempt to return to the docks.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, Chris Corrigan is expected to bid for the third stevedoring spot to be opened up by the Port Botany expansion.

Other likely bidders include Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings and Anglo Port, jointly with Philippine operator International Container Terminal Services. Hutchison recently entered the Brisbane market, winning the tender to operate a new container terminal.

The existing stevedores at the port, Patrick or DP World, are expected to be prevented from bidding in order to introduce fresh competition into the industry.

Mr Corrigan’s participation in the bidding will be via long-time business associate Sam Kaplan’s publicly listed KFM Diversified Infrastructure and Logistics Fund, which has taken direct stakes in several ports around Australia since its launch earlier this year.

The entry of a third operator is designed to maintain pricing pressures on existing operators, and limit prospects of price fixing and uncompetitive practices .

The NSW Minister for Ports, Joe Tripodi, said the stevedoring tender would be held early next year. As reported on TandLnews last week, the Government gave the nod to the joint venture of Baulderstone Hornibrook and the Belgian company Jan de Nul for the 60-hectare expansion of the port, a decision widely criticised citing Baulderstone’s recent checquered track record.

The expansion includes the creation of five new berths. The capacity of the port, which handles a third of Australia’s container traffic, is to be doubled.

Construction is to begin next year, with the first berth scheduled to be ready by 2012, well after 2010, which is when the port is expected to reach maximum capacity with its present number of berths.

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