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Aus: Green light for poultry acquisition

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will not oppose the proposed acquisition of Bartter by Baiada Poultry, reports Food Week.

The ACCC said competition concerns had been resolved by Baiada's undertaking to sell certain Victorian assets to competitor La Ionica Poultry.

"On February 11, 2009, the ACCC announced its opposition to the proposed acquisition of Bartter by Baiada because it would have the effect of substantially lessening competition in the market for the wholesale supply of processed chicken, in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974," said ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel.

"The ACCC decided that the three national chicken processors – Baiada, Bartter and Ingham – supply the vast majority of customers who buy very large volumes of processed chicken (such as supermarkets and fast food restaurants) and are each other's closest competitors… The ACCC also concluded that smaller chicken processors faced high barriers to expansion and as such were unlikely to be able to impose effective competitive constraints on the merged entity," said Samuel.

To address the ACCC's competition concerns, Baiada offered a court enforceable undertaking under section 87B of the Act. Under this, Baiada, upon acquiring Bartter, will simultaneously divest all assets currently owned by Bartter in Victoria to La Ionica Poultry, reports state.

"These assets include Bartter's Geelong processing plant, associated breeding farms and hatcheries and Bartter's North Melbourne feed mill," Samuel said.

La Ionica currently operates a chicken processing facility in Thomastown and is a major supplier of whole dressed birds to customers, predominantly in Victoria and to a lesser extent in NSW.

The ACCC has accepted the undertaking on the basis that the divestiture of Bartter's Victorian assets to La Ionica Poultry will result in a significant expansion of La Ionica Poultry's current chicken processing capabilities.

After conducting market inquiries, the ACCC decided that La Ionica Poultry's expansion would provide large volume buyers of processed chicken with an alternative supplier and would therefore offer increased competitive constraints to the merged entity.

Source: Food Week

Natalie Berkhout

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