$469m merger gains ACCC approval with advice from Australian competition experts

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has greenlit a major merger in the Australian agriculture industry with the help of dealmakers from two leading commercial firms in Australia.

Ashurst and Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) helped secure ACCC approval for the proposed acquisition of Ruralco by Nutrien in a deal worth $469m. Ashurst is advising Nutrien and its Australian business, Landmark, while JWS is counselling Ruralco Holdings on competition aspects of the deal.

Ashurst works closely with Blake, Cassels & Graydon, the Canadian competition counsel of Nutrien. The firm’s team is led by partners Brian Facey and Kevin Macdonald. Facey chairs Blakes’ competition, antitrust, and foreign investment group.

The corporate side of the deal is being handled by Allens for Nutrien and Gilbert + Tobin for Ruralco.

The firms are still working on the deal, as after the ACCC’s approval – which came down last week after a “Phase 2” review that lasted six months – the transaction still needs approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and Ruralco shareholders. Ashurst said that the deal is expected to close by the end of September.

ACCC approved the transaction believing it is unlikely to substantially lessen competition. Nutrien has agreed to sell three rural-merchandise stores in Broome, Western Australia; Alice Springs, Northern Territory; and Hughenden, Queensland.

The Ashurst team is headed by competition partner Alyssa Phillips, who is supported by senior associates John McKellar and Sarida Derrington, associates Jonny Hugh and Sarah Hort, and graduates Roanize Kruger and Ben Hartsuyker.

"We are excited to have advised Nutrien and Landmark on this significant strategic transaction in the Australian agricultural industry, and pleased to see it gain approval from the ACCC. This is an important step for Nutrien, bringing together the trusted businesses of Landmark and Ruralco to capture synergies and efficiencies, which will benefit Australian farmer customers and their communities,” Phillips said.

The JWS team is headed by competition partners Aldo Nicotra and Sar Katdare. They are supported by associate Jesse McNaughton.

“Informal clearance from the ACCC was an essential step in ensuring that the transaction could proceed.  We are pleased to have assisted Ruralco achieve this goal and look forward to seeing the merged entity prosper in the future,” Nicotra said.