Australian regulator waves through Asciano buyout

Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:49pm EDT
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By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's antitrust watchdog on Thursday gave the green light to a A$9.1 billion ($6.79 billion) buyout of rail freight giant Asciano Ltd AIO.AX by a global consortium led by Canada's Brookfield Asset Management Inc (BAMa.TO: Quote).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had been concerned the deal would give Asciano's new owners, which include Australian stevedoring company Qube Holdings Ltd (QUB.AX: Quote), too much control of the freight market.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the regulator had concluded there was "not likely to be a substantial lessening of competition in any market” after the deal was restructured to address officials' concerns.

Investors sent Qube shares to a two-month high of A$2.505 on the news. At 0120 GMT, they were up 3.2 percent at A$2.44 in a firm Australian market .AXJO. Asciano shares were 0.9 percent higher in late morning trades.

"To come through with no objections, no further delays, was a little bit of a surprise," said John Corr, chief investment officer at Aurora Funds Management.

"Qube shares probably suggest it's a good deal for them."

The go-ahead came as a relief for Asciano shareholders following a year-long takeover battle that began with Brookfield's initial solitary bid of $6.8 billion last July. The ACCC could have mounted a legal challenge, a move that would have hit the company's share price.

"The decision by the ACCC is clearly a major milestone in the process of acquiring these important businesses," Qube said in a statement.   Continued...

Brookfield Asset Management Chief Executive Officer Bruce Flatt  attends an annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto May 10, 2012.  REUTERS/Brett Gundlock