Thursday 13th Dec, 2018

ACCC greenlights Qube’s MCS acquisition

Photo: Ian Ackerman
Photo: Ian Ackerman

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced it will allow Qube to keep Maritime Container Services, a business which the logistics company acquired late last year.

The ACCC’s investigation into the acquisition focused on the supply chain for containerised freight through Port Botany zeroing in on the role of empty container parks in the chain.

MCS runs the Cooks River Intermodal Terminal, which has rail sidings used by some of Qube’s rivals.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said it was important for regional exporters and rail operators to have access to empty container parks with rail facilities.

“While there are a limited number of these types of empty container parks in Sydney, there appear to be sufficient choices for Qube’s rivals in rail, stevedoring and logistics,” he said.

The ACCC considered whether the vertical integration of an empty container park with Qube’s existing rail assets, intermodal terminals and its 50% interest in Patrick could result in preferential treatment for Qube or discrimination against its competitors.

A key consideration was whether the acquisition could reduce competition in the market for rail container transport services between regional New South Wales and Port Botany.

The ACCC pointed to alternative empty container parks operated by DP World Logistics (Botany Intermodal) and soon by LINX (Enfield Intermodal Terminal) that could act to constrain Qube’s incentive to discriminate against rivals.

Mr Sims said the alternative empty container parks with rail access would provide exporters in regional NSW and rail operators the option of moving to other facilities if they consider they are receiving less favourable treatment from Qube.

“Some large regional exporters have already moved to alternative container parks,” he said.

“The threat of continued switching by customers limits the impact of discriminatory behaviour by Qube, and may also act to constrain Qube from engaging in such behaviour in the first place.”

Considering Qube’s relationship to Patrick, the ACCC said it would be unlikely that Qube could leverage the operation of MCS to preference the stevedore because of the availability of alternative empty container parks and the role of shipping lines in choosing stevedores.

Qube finalised the MCS acquisition in late December last year, days after it notified the ACCC of its intention to do so.

The ACCC pointed out that by not seeking informal ACCC clearance before completing the transaction, Qube and MCS were exposed to potential legal action seeking divestiture and penalty orders had the ACCC decided the acquisition would substantially lessen competition.

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