Proposed retail takeover comes under ACCC’s gaze

By Country News

Proposed retail takeover comes under ACCC’s gaze

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is examining whether a proposed takeover of Ruralco Holdings by a Canadian fertiliser giant could reduce wholesale competition and lead to discrimination against some independent retail stores.

In February, rural services firm Ruralco got a $469million all-cash takeover offer from Nutrien Ltd, which operates in Australia through its wholly-owned unit Landmark, one of the largest agricultural businesses in Australia.

Shares of Ruralco fell as much as 5.4 per cent to $4.05, their biggest intraday percentage drop in more than 11 months, after the release of a Statement of Issues by the regulator.

The offer comes at a time of heightened global interest in Australia’s agriculture sector, with Saputo Inc grabbing Murray Goulburn for $1billion, while GrainCorp Ltd received a $2.38billion bid from a privately held asset manager.

The Landmark-Ruralco deal is facing antitrust concerns as a combination of the two large rural supply firms would create a heavyweight retailer in rural merchandise.

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said a merged Landmark-Ruralco would be by far the largest retail and wholesale supplier of rural merchandise in Australia, with Elders Ltd the only other large national chain.

Expressing its preliminary view on the matter, ACCC said it would examine what impact the loss of a major national retail competitor might have on prices and product range, including private label brands, and other areas of competition.

ACCC said it was also considering whether delivery from outside certain areas where Landmark’s rural merchandise stores compete with Ruralco stores would provide sufficient competition to the retail stores of the combined firm.

Responding to the ACCC observations, Ruralco said it was considering the impact of the ACCC’s process on the transaction timetable, adding it remained confident the issues raised by ACCC would be addressed satisfactorily.

Queensland vet pleads guilty to animal neglect

A Queensland veterinary surgeon who kept his animals in ‘‘appalling conditions’’ has been fined $2000 and banned from owning animals for two years.

RSPCA officers raided Dr David Bruce Ziebell’s Jimboomba property south of Brisbane in October and found 15 birds and a cow dead, a Southport court was told. Others were allegedly being held in appalling conditions.

Ziebell admitted he had ‘‘got behind’’ as he pleaded guilty to three counts of animal neglect.

Cruelty charge for man who posted emu act to social media

A young NSW man who was allegedly filmed pulling feathers out of a distressed emu — while others laughed — has been charged with animal cruelty.

The 19-year-old was arrested in Dubbo last Wednesday after police were alerted to the footage circulating on social media.

He was charged with recklessly causing prolonged suffering to an animal and granted conditional bail to appear at Dubbo Local Court on July 22.

Fire truck joyride ends in lock-up for teenager

A teenager is behind bars after he allegedly stole a fire truck and drove it around regional NSW with a suspended licence.

Police allege the 19-year-old broke into a NSW Rural Fire Service property in Pine Grove, in the state’s central west, after midnight on Thursday and took a fire brigade tanker.

Later, officers were alerted to a man ‘‘acting suspiciously’’ near a fire truck in the town of Quambone, west of Coonamble.

He was arrested and charged with break and enter, stealing a motor vehicle, damaging property by fire and driving a motor vehicle during a disqualification period.

Police later discovered the truck’s front passenger seat had been damaged by fire while stolen.

The teen was refused bail and is due to appear at Dubbo Local Court on Thursday.