Western Australian farmers plan to continue their opposition of Brookfield Infrastructure’s proposed takeover of port and rail business Asciano, despite a range of concessions Brookfield recently put forward to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Bermuda/Canada-based Brookfield Infrastructure already owns Brookfield Rail, which holds a long-term lease of much of WA’s intermodal and grain rail network, as well as the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal in Queensland.
Following opposition from several parties, including WA’s farmers, the ACCC raised major concerns over Brookfield’s initial all-in takeover bid for Asciano, with the thought that vertical integration of rail ownership and rail operations could work out unfavourably for customers.
This led Brookfield to offer several undertakings to the ACCC that would be conditional to the sale.
The infrastructure firm, which is competing with a Qube-led consortium to acquire Asciano, committed to divest the intermodal business of Pacific National – Asciano’s rail subsidiary – as well as Pacific National’s limited bulk rail operations in WA, if it were to win in its takeover bid.
It also made commitments to ensure independent operation and decision making at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.
These concessions are not enough to assuage the fears of WA farmers, however.
A report this week in the AFR says Dale Park, president of the WA Farmers Federation, believes the divestment of Pacific National’s intermodal business would not necessarily protect farmers from an unfair market environment.
“Our original position still stands,” Park was quoted by the AFR. “We think they should give up the rail.”
One of Brookfield Rail’s major customers, grain cooperative CBH, reportedly also plans to make a submission to the ACCC.
The competition watchdog has re-opened the submissions process in light of the new concessions from Brookfield.