Watchdog’s worried, but ANZ cleared to buy Suncorp Bank in $4.9 billion blockbuster

ANZ has had a massive legal win on appeal after its proposed $4.9 billion acquisition of Suncorp’s banking arm has been given the go-ahead.

Feb 20, 2024, updated Feb 20, 2024
ANZ Boss Shayne Elliott (Image: AAP)

ANZ Boss Shayne Elliott (Image: AAP)

The Australian Competition Tribunal on Tuesday set aside an August decision by the competition watchdog declining to authorise the acquisition.

“The tribunal is satisfied that the proposed acquisition represents a net public benefit,” deputy president Justice John Halley said when reading out a summary of the tribunal’s decision.

“(The) forecast integration and productive efficiencies from the proposed acquisition constitute real and tangible benefits to the public.”

The tribunal was not persuaded by the ACCC’s criticisms, finding the acquisition would not substantially lessen competition in the national home loans market or the agribusiness or small-to-medium enterprise markets in Queensland.

These were the three areas the competition watchdog claimed would be negatively impacted by the takeover bid, which was first proposed in July 2022.

The Big Four Banks held 72 per cent of reported banking system assets in Australia and engaged in co-ordination regarding their home loans, the tribunal found.

However, ANZ’s purchase of Suncorp would only result in a small increase in the bank’s market share and would “not have a meaningful impact” on competition, it said.

ANZ would also continue to offer the same agribusiness services and would be forced to provide more competitive SME offerings if the acquisition went ahead, the tribunal found.

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott called the decision a “significant milestone” and said the bank remained committed to completing the takeover as quickly as possible.

“Suncorp Bank is a high-quality business with a strong team and excellent customer base, and we look forward to bringing them access to the best of ANZ, including our platforms and technology,” he said.

“We strongly believe that the acquisition presents significant opportunities for ANZ, Suncorp Bank and our customers, as well as major public benefits including for Queensland.”

The fate of the $4.9 billion takeover will still depend on legislative changes by the Queensland state government as well as approval by the federal treasurer.

The tribunal has overturned decisions by the ACCC, including the 2019 merger of Vodafone Hutchison and TPG Telecom.

But it backed the regulator in June over its decision to block a spectrum-sharing arrangement between TPG and Telstra.

AAP has contacted Suncorp and the ACCC for comment.

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