The ACCC has outlined preliminary concerns with Forestry Corporation of New South Wales’ (FCNSW) proposed acquisition of the assets of Hume Forests Ltd (Hume) in a statement of issues published today. Hume is being sold in a competitive bid process.
FCNSW is a state-owned corporation that manages commercial native and plantation forests on behalf of the NSW Government.
Market feedback indicates that FCNSW accounts for over 60 per cent of the plantation area in the Tumut/Tumbarumba region and over 75 per cent of the plantation area in the Bathurst/Oberon region, and consequently is the dominant softwood log supplier in the regions.
Hume owns softwood plantation estates in the Tumut/Tumbarumba and Bathurst/Oberon regions of NSW.
Hume is the only alternative supplier of significant size in the Bathurst/Oberon region and one of the few alternatives of significant size in the Tumut/Tumbarumba region.
“We are concerned that this acquisition is likely to lead to price increases or reductions in service levels for the supply of softwood logs in the Tumut/Tumbarumba and Bathurst/Oberon regions by removing a significant competitor to FCNSW,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“Barriers to entry and expansion are very high in the forestry industry. Market shares reflect access to land in these regions and that is unlikely to significantly change in the long term.”
“Given the nature of the industry, we are considering competition issues with a long-term time horizon of 25 years or more,” Mr Keogh said.
“This industry is characterised by long-term contracts and infrequent tenders by plantation owners. In this context, we are carefully considering the extent to which FCNSW and Hume are likely to competitively constrain one another.”
The ACCC is considering the claims by FCNSW that it will be constrained from exerting market power post acquisition due to its status as a state-owned corporation, existing long-term contracts, the constraint from downstream imports, and customer buying power. The ACCC is exploring these issues, taking into account the potential for FCNSW to be privatised in the future.
The ACCC invites submissions from interested parties in response to the statement of issues by 3 November 2022.
The ACCC’s final decision is scheduled for 27 January 2023. More information, including the statement of issues, is available at: Forestry Corporation of NSW – Hume Forests Ltd
Softwood logs are used by mills and processors to produce a variety of products, including paper, particleboard, medium density fibreboard, house frames and landscaping.
The 2019/2020 bushfires had a significant impact on softwood plantations in NSW. Forestry Corporation estimates 36 per cent of its softwood plantations in the Tumut/Tumbarumba region were impacted by the bushfires, while about 3 per cent of its Bathurst/Oberon plantations were affected.
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