THE ACCC will not stand in the way of the proposed Westpac acquisition of St George Bank. After conducting an investigation into the acquisition and its potential impact on the market, the regulator released a statement saying that the merger was unlikely to substantially lessen competition under section 50 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
“This conclusion was reached after conducting a comprehensive review of the proposed acquisition, including extensive market inquiries with a range of interested parties, confidential surveys by the ACCC, and considering internal documents of the merger parties,” ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said.
While St George Bank was given a lukewarm classification of “relatively innovative” by the ACCC investigation, the green dragon was not seen as the only player in the market able to deliver customer-oriented banking services. The inquiry identified a range of substitutable banking products available in the market, including master trust platforms and an increasing number of separately managed accounts, as available to financial planning businesses and investors.
“In particular, the ACCC considered that competition in retail banking markets provided by the other major banks and regional banks, along with credit unions, building societies and niche players, would be sufficient to constrain the merged firm after the acquisition,” Samuel said.
“The ACCC acknowledges the role that regional banks have played in challenging the major banks, particularly as they have entered new states and competed aggressively to gain market share,” he said.