Concerns about sale of RMS Tasmanian forestry assets

26 September 2019

The ACCC has raised preliminary competition concerns about the proposed sale of the Tasmanian forestry assets of Resource Management Service LLC (RMS).

RMS is selling its hardwood plantations and a one-third share in a woodchip marketing and export business in Tasmania by competitive tender.

The ACCC has been reviewing two prospective buyers of the RMS assets: a fund managed by New Forests Asset Management (New Forests) and a fund advised by Global Forest Partners LP (GFP).

The New Forests proposed acquisition would lead to considerable aggregation in hardwood plantations, with New Forests owning close to 50 per cent. It would also lead to the likely diversion of RMS’ current volumes to export operations owned by New Forests.

“We are concerned that the acquisitions could impact the viability of competing export channels for hardwood plantation chips in northern Tasmania, which could lower prices paid to private growers of plantation logs,” ACCC Commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said.

“We have the strongest competition concerns about the impact of the New Forests bid on exports from Burnie, in Tasmania’s north-west.”

“The diversion of RMS’ woodchips into the export operations linked with New Forests could jeopardise access to the export channels in Burnie by other market participants. This is likely to result in a reduction in buyers of plantation timber from private growers, reducing the price paid to growers.”

“Our preliminary view is that if New Forests buys the RMS assets, New Forests will likely become the only exporter from Burnie, making it the sole buyer of private plantation timber, or woodchips,” Mr Ridgeway said.

“We also have concerns in relation to exports through Bell Bay. These preliminary concerns arise from both the New Forests bid and the GFP bid. Export options here could be reduced from three to two at Bell Bay, and this loss of a third option could weaken the level of competition for timber from private growers.”

At this stage, the ACCC does not consider that the GFP bid raises competition concerns in Burnie. We consider GFP would be likely to establish its own export operation out of Burnie, meaning there would be no reduction in the number of buyers for plantation hardwood logs from smaller estates in the north-west region.

The ACCC has today published a statement of issues outlining its preliminary concerns. It invites submissions from interested parties by 10 October 2019. The ACCC’s final decision is scheduled for 5 December 2019.

Further information is available at Global Forest Partners LP - proposed acquisition of Resource Management Service LLC's Tasmanian Hardwood plantations and New Forests Asset Management managed forestry investment fund’s proposed acquisition of Resource Management Service LLC’s Tasmanian Hardwood Plantations.

Background

RMS and New Forests are two of the largest owners of hardwood plantations in Tasmania.

RMS is a global forest investment manager based in the United States.

RMS does not own any processing facilities in Tasmania. Its timber is processed at third party chipping mills.

It is also a one third owner of a marketing and export business, the Plantation Export Group (PEG), which exports RMS chips, joint venture partners’ chips, and third parties’ wood chips.

New Forests is a vertically integrated forestry investment manager which manages plantations, forestry and processing infrastructure in Tasmania.

It is the largest manager of hardwood plantation timber in Tasmania.

New Forests funds own wood chipping mills in north-west Tasmania (in the Burnie area) and north-east Tasmania (at Long Reach). New Forests has its own wood chip marketing and export business and also manages funds which own softwood plantations and a timber mill.

GFP controls hardwood plantations, chipping mills and markets and exports wood chips through its own export facilities.

New Forests and GFP operate as fund managers or advisers to a number of funds or trusts that own assets in the Australian forestry industry.

The ACCC considers there are many circumstances where these commonly managed or advised funds may be motivated to act to each other’s mutual benefit.

PEG provides the marketing and export services for woodchips from logs grown on the RMS estate. The RMS woodchips contribute a large share of the volume marketed and exported by PEG. PEG also markets and exports woodchips from other parties.

The ACCC considers it likely that New Forests and GFP would divert the RMS volumes from PEG to their own export operations, should either of the proposed acquisitions go ahead. It is likely PEG would become unviable, or at least inefficient without the RMS volumes. Another export operation is unlikely to enter the Burnie woodchip export market without access to large plantation volumes.

Release number: 
177/19
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