Australian antitrust watchdog raises concerns on Graincorp-ANZ Terminals deal

(Reuters) - Australia's competition regulator on Thursday expressed concern over the proposed acquisition by ANZ Terminals of Graincorp's GNC.AX Australian bulk liquid terminals unit, potentially delaying the agribusiness firm's restructuring efforts.

FILE PHOTO: The logo for GrainCorp, Australia's largest listed bulk grain handler, adorns a sign at the Burren Junction depot located in the New South Wales town of Burren Junction, located north-west of Sydney in Australia, March 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that the acquisition would likely remove a significant competitor in what it saw as an already concentrated industry.

Graincorp, Australia’s largest-listed grain handler, said in March it planned to sell GrainCorp Liquid Terminals Australia to ANZ Terminals for an enterprise value of A$350 million ($244 million).

Both ANZ Terminals and GrainCorp provide port-side bulk liquid storage services to store liquids including edible oils, tallow, non-flammable industrial chemicals and base oils for customers.

The ACCC said the proposed acquisition could result in higher prices for customers, and also raised concerns regarding the entry of new players in the market.

Graincorp said it noted the statement and would continue to work closely with the ACCC on transaction.

The watchdog said it would make a final decision by Oct. 17.

Graincorp unveiled plans in April to separate in two, spinning off and listing its global malting unit and restructuring its grain business, whose earnings have been hit by drought.

In May, asset manager Long-Term Asset Partners (LTAP) withdrew a A$2.4 billion takeover bid for Graincorp after conducting due diligence.

Shares of GrainCorp were down 2.8% in morning trade, compared with a 0.2% higher broader market .AXJO.

Reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin