The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has sought leave to appeal to the High Court Pacific National’s purchase of Aurizon’s Acacia Ridge Terminal.
In May, the Full Federal Court, on appeal, found that the sale would not substantially lessen competition in the rail freight sector.
If the ACCC’s appeal is successful, it will be the first time that the High Court has heard a case with Australia’s merger laws.
Pacific National has criticised the ACCC’s pursual of the case, which had been heard and ruled upon twice at the Federal Court level.
“Pacific National was looking forward to completing the transaction and adding the Acacia Ridge Terminal to its network of efficient freight terminals, and this will once again be delayed while the ACCC seeks to further appeal what Pacific National considered was a comprehensive and correct decision by the Federal Court,” said a Pacific National spokesperson.
Aurizon has said in a statement that it would continue to operate the Acacia Ridge terminal and expected the leave application to be heard and decided before the end of 2020.
The ACCC has been pursuing the case as it sees the case as a test of Australia’s merger laws. In addition, the ACCC is attempting to seek a finding as to whether a court can accept an undertaking after finding a proposed acquisition is anti-competitive.
“We are seeking special leave to appeal to the High Court because it is vital for Australian businesses and consumers that competition laws are effective in protecting the competitive process,” said Simms.
Pacific National had offered to make an access undertaking which the Federal Court had initially accepted. On appeal the Full Federal Court found that the undertaking was not needed.
Simms said that the Full Federal Court’s decision did not recognise the impact of Pacific National’s purchase of the Acacia Ridge terminal.
“We believe that the Full Federal Court’s decision does not recognise the full impact of the proposed acquisition on competition in this vitally important industry.”