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ANZ seeks review of ACCC decision on Suncorp acquisition

The major bank has announced it has filed an application for the Australian Competition Tribunal to review ACCC’s acquisition denial.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott has confirmed that the major bank has applied for a review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to not grant authorisation of the proposed acquisition of Suncorp Bank.

The Australian Competition Tribunal is the review body for merger authorisation decisions and, under Australian competition law, can “vary or set aside” the ACCC’s decision.

In a statement on Friday (25 August), Mr Elliott said: “Not only do we believe that ANZ’s acquisition of Suncorp Bank will create a combined bank which is better equipped to respond to competitive pressures to the benefit of Australian consumers, it will also deliver significant public benefits, particularly in Queensland.

“Queensland is thriving, with strong opportunities to further grow and prosper.

“We remain excited about the opportunities for ANZ and our customers in Queensland, and the benefits of bringing Suncorp Bank and its customers into the ANZ Group.”

The major bank confirmed it continues to prepare for the integration of Suncorp Bank into ANZ.

Suncorp Group has also acknowledged the application by ANZ, adding that it had made its own application to the Tribunal for a review of the ACCC’s decision and said it would "participate fully in its own right throughout the Tribunal process".

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"Suncorp maintains the view that the sale of Suncorp Bank to ANZ is in the best interests of its customers, shareholders and employees and will deliver public benefits for Queensland and a net benefit to the Australian economy," the bank said in a statement.

"In addition to the approval from the Tribunal, the sale remains subject to the amendment of the State Financial Institutions and Metway Merger Act and approval from the Federal Treasurer under the Financial Sector (Shareholdings) Act. Should all approvals be received, Suncorp expects completion by the middle of the 2024 calendar year.

"Suncorp Group remains fully committed to Suncorp Bank while the approval process continues."

Why was the merger denied?

The ACCC denied the merger proposal due to concerns over home loan competition and SME lending competition.

According to the ACCC, the Australian home loans market is already at risk of coordination between the major banks for a number of reasons such as the banks’ ability to price signal, the similarities of the major banks in terms of size and structure, the stability of the existing market structure, and high barriers to entry.

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said at the time of the decision: “We are not satisfied that the acquisition is not likely to substantially lessen competition in the supply of home loans nationally, small to medium enterprise banking in Queensland, and agribusiness banking in Queensland.

“These banking markets are critical for many home owners and for Queensland businesses and farmers in particular. Competition being lessened in these markets will lead to customers getting a worse deal.”

The ACCC stated that Suncorp Bank and other non-major banks are crucial competitors to the big four, particularly because barriers to new entry at scale into banking are very high.

[RELATED: ANZ-Suncorp merger denied]

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