Caltex will move swiftly to complete its $95 million purchase of a large Victorian service station franchise chain operating under its banner after getting the all clear from the competition watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Thursday announced it would not oppose the the deal that will see Caltex by stations from the Milemaker Petroleum chain – its single largest independent franchisee.
Caltex profit results
Oil importer, refiner and marketer Caltex posts a full-year net profit of $610 million in 2016.
Caltex is proposing to acquire 46 of Milemaker’s sites in Victoria, around 30 of which are in metropolitan Melbourne.
The ACCC flagged concerns in March that the deal could result in a lessening of competition because Milemaker adopted an independent approach to setting prices even though it operates under the Caltex banner.
“We are pleased with the outcome and anticipate closing transaction next week,” a Caltex spokeswoman said.
In a statement ACCC Chairman Rod Sims acknowledged that the sale could be seen to lessen competition but there would be enough tension between operators still to limit price increases.
”We know from our ACCC petrol reports and market studies that prices are cheaper for drivers where there are vigorous competitors like Milemaker in the market,” Mr Sims said.
“While the ACCC concluded that Milemaker contributes to downwards pressure on fuel prices in Melbourne there are also several other vigorous competitors with more Melbourne sites than Milemaker.
Caltex says it is trying to ‘do the right thing’ by underpaid workers Photo: Sasha Woolley
“This was a difficult decision, as competition will be reduced. However, the small size of Milemaker and limited direct competitive overlap with Caltex led the ACCC to conclude that the effect on competition is not likely to be substantial.”
Mr Sims said the test to knock back the transaction was that it would result in a “substantial” lessening of competition.
Milemaker was founded by Nick Andrianakos and it is run by his two sons Paul and Theo.
He signalled that the ACCC would continue to look at all retail fuel acquisitions closely.
This was a difficult decision, as competition will be reduced.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims
Caltex or its agents set the price at around 59 sites in Melbourne, and in around a further 51 sites in other parts of Victoria.
There are approximately 155 other Caltex branded sites in Victoria which Caltex and its agents do not operate and where Caltex does not generally set the price.
Caltex has signalled a strong desire to boost its exposure to convenience retailing and has flagged a wider review of its franchise model.
Caltex bought a chain of New Zealand service stations from the Perth-based Rae Family for $300 million.