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Australian regulator outlines concerns over proposed Woolworths-BP deal

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, ACCC, released a "statement of issues" document Aug. 10 outlining concerns related to BP plc's proposed acquisition of Woolworths Ltd.'s network of retail service station sites.

The British oil and gas company's subsidiary, BP Developments Australia Pty. Ltd., proposed to acquire 527 of Australian-based Woolworths' fuel convenience sites and 16 committed development sites when the deal was announced in 2016.

The ACCC gave its preliminary views on the competition concerns arising from the proposed transaction and highlighted areas of further investigations in the document, filed Aug. 10. The commission also invited comments and information from interested parties on the proposed transaction by Sept. 7.

The proposed transaction may reduce competition considerably in retail fuel markets by eliminating a strong competitor in fuel retailing that has a different competitive strategy, according to the ACCC. Through the proposed transaction, BP may replace the more competitive pricing strategy used by Woolworths at its sites and allow other fuel retailers to coordinate price increases more effectively.

The Australian regulator also found that the proposed transaction may decrease competition considerably in the convenience grocery segment by combining the convenience offerings of the two companies.

The ACCC is expected to announce its findings on the matter Oct. 26.