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Australia rejected the Aus$3.4bn ($3.1bn) takeover of GrainCorp by US-based Archer Daniels Midland, saying that the "contentious" deal was "contrary to the national interest" in hampering competition in grain handling.
Joe Hockey, the Australian treasurer, on Friday said that it was "not the right time" for a 100% takeover by a foreign group of Sydney-based GrainCorp, which he termed a "key Australian business".
"For me to reject this proposal, I had to determine that the acquisition of GrainCorp by ADM is contrary to the national interest," he said.
"Based on all the available information, I have now made that decision."
'High level of concern'
The takeover of one of Australia's top grain handlers - which owns more than 280 crop inland storage facilities and seven of the grain port terminals in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria – could reduce the attempts to boost competition in the sector, since it was deregulated five years ago, he said.
"Although a number of new players have entered the market and new infrastructure is being built, it is still taking some time for increased competition to emerge," Mr Hockey said.
"Many industry participants, particularly growers in eastern Australia, have expressed concern that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition and impede growers' ability to access the grain storage, logistics and distribution network."
Mr Hockey also highlighted the "high level of concern" the bid by ADM had attracted from "the broader community", with potential implications for future foreign investments in Australia.
"I therefore judged that allowing it to proceed could risk undermining public support for the foreign investment regime and ongoing foreign investment more generally."
'Would have created value'
However, the rejection of the deal - which had divided a government coalition between the Liberal Party, seen as pro investment and a National Party which opposed the takeover – was greeted with "disappointment" by ADM.
"We are confident that our acquisition of GrainCorp would have created value for shareholders of ADM and GrainCorp, as well as grain growers and the Australian economy," said Patricia Woertz, the ADM chairman and chief executive, said.
"Throughout this process, we worked constructively to create an arrangement that would be in Australia's best interests and made substantial commitments to address issues that were important to stakeholders."
Earlier this week, ADM added a sweetener to its bid, including price gaps on grain handling charges at ports and silos, and Aus$200m on improving rail infrastructure.
While Mr Hockey said that he would approve ADM raising its stake in GrainCorp from the current 19.85% to 24.9%, Ms Woertz did not address that in her statement.
"As owner of 19.85% of GrainCorp, we will look to work with them to maximise returns on our investment and create value for both companies," she said.
Ms Woertz added that, with the GrainCorp purchase now blocked, it was, as part of its 2014 business plan, reviewing its capital allocations, "including shareholder distribution alternatives", signalling the potential for returning extra cash to investors.
AT&T is reportedly considering a potential takeover of Vodafone Group, Bloomberg reports citing unnamed people familiar with the situation. No formal negotiations are believed to have begun yet, but AT&T is said to be investigating which Vodafone assets it would retain after a deal, and which it would sell and to whom.
The US giant has been linked with other acquisitions in Europe in recent months, with UK cellco EE (a joint venture between Orange Group and Deutsche Telekom) believed to be an alternative target.
An acquisition or merger with Vodafone, however, would be on a different scale, and would see the creation of the world’s largest telecoms company by revenue. Any such deal would likely have to wait for the completion of Vodafone’s sale to Verizon Communications of its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, which is due to close in early 2014. Neither AT&T nor Vodafone has commented publicly on the speculation.
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