Monday, June 17, 2024

Coles to acquire dairy factories from Saputo

The ACCC says it will not oppose Coles’ proposed acquisition of two milk processing plants from dairy processor, Saputo.

Coles and Saputo both currently acquire raw milk from dairy farmers in NSW and Victoria. Coles currently has its milk processed at the Erskine Park, NSW and Laverton plants, Victoria by Saputo. After the acquisition, Saputo will have its raw milk processed by Coles at these facilities under similar arrangements.

Following engagement with key stakeholders, the ACCC released a Statement of Issues in July identifying its preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition may increase Coles’ bargaining position in the dairy supply chain.

Concerns were also raised that the acquisition may change Saputo’s incentives and result in it exiting the raw milk market in NSW, which would reduce the number of buyers of raw milk.

“We acknowledge the strong concerns raised by some dairy industry participants about Coles’ acquisition of milk processing facilities,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh.

“We explored the industry’s concerns very closely through discussions with farmers and their representative bodies and conducted a detailed review of Saputo and Coles’ internal documents and their incentives.

“After careful consideration, we concluded that, compared with the current state of competition where the majority of the capacity at these facilities is already contracted to Coles, the acquisition is unlikely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in breach of section 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act.”

Saputo’s financial data indicates that it has a commercial incentive to continue selling its Devondale milk in NSW. Saputo also recently entered into a five-year toll processing agreement with Coles at the Erskine Park processing plant.

“We considered that the proposed acquisition would be unlikely to change Saputo’s incentives to continue acquiring raw milk from farmers in NSW for at least the next five years,” says Mr Keogh.

“We also found that other dairy companies such as Lactalis and Bega would continue to be competitors for raw milk in central NSW, and that the proposed acquisition is unlikely to change this.”

The ACCC also looked closely at concerns that the acquisition would strengthen Coles’ position in the dairy supply chain, and that it would give Coles the incentive and ability to adversely affect other processors.

“While we found that Coles may have an incentive to consolidate some of its milk volumes in the eastern states, this was unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition,” says Mr Keogh.

“Coles will likely continue to face financial incentives to stock and support branded milk from other processors, due to the higher retail margins it earns on these products.”

In addition, the ACCC found that Coles’ commercial incentives to consolidate its milk supply would exist with or without the transaction due to the significant excess capacity at the Laverton and Erskine Park facilities.

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