Australia’s National Competition Council has initially rejected an application by Asciano Group (AIO) to have Queensland’s coal freight network, set to be sold to the public by the state, brought under federal regulatory oversight.
Access for third parties to the network under Queensland’s authority was “effective” and should remain subject to state control for 10 years, the Melbourne-based council said today in a draft ruling published on its website. The closing date for further submissions is Oct. 14. Asciano said it will continue with its application.
Australia’s largest port and rail operator in May applied to the council to have the network placed under national jurisdiction, citing possible anti-competitive behavior after the initial public offering. The government is planning the IPO of its QR National assets, including the coal tracks, in the next quarter.
“This decision will deliver certainty to all access seekers and other parties, not to mention potential investors in the QR National float,” Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser said in an e-mailed statement. The government had sought approval from the council to continue having oversight of the network.
The council’s rejection is the first step in a multi-stage process, with the final decision to be made by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, Asciano Chief Executive Officer Mark Rowsthorn said in an e-mailed release.
“We will remain focused on securing a level playing field for above rail operators and continue with our application,” Rowsthorn said. “We strongly believe the vertically integrated structure of QR National is still highly anti-competitive and a risk to potential investors in the company, who may see the company separated in the future.”
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