The Federal Court of Australia has dealt a major blow for the planned merger of Tabcorp Holdings and Tatts Group, ruling against the Australian Competition Tribunal’s (ACT) right to approve the AUS $11 billion combination.
Former merger review body the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) had filed for a Federal Court review in July 2017, having been dropped by Tabcorp governance as deal supervisor following the publication of stakeholder issues concerning the merger to create Australian gambling outright market leader.
In its court order, the ACCC alleged that the ACT had made a number of ‘review errors’ with regards to Tabcorp-Tatts combination, further stating that wider stakeholder concerns should be reassessed by the Tribunal.
Justice Nye Perram has upheld the ACCC’s appeal, stating “The court orders that the decision of the tribunal be set aside and the matter be referred back to the tribunal for consideration”.
Tabcorp and Tatts governances will now have to wait five days to hear why the Federal Court sided with the ACCC.
Adding a new major roadblock for the merger, the ACT will now have to re-review the combination, taking on board the considerations of Australian competitors and industry stakeholders against Tabcorp-Tatts on grounds of current and future competition conditions.
The decision will irritate Tabcorp governance, who this September detailed to its investors that the merger had been pushed forward for an October Tatts shareholder final vote, with the deal aiming to be closed by November.