Australia’s competition regulator said yesterday it had launched an informal review of BHP Billiton’s proposed joint iron ore venture with Rio Tinto to seek comment on the controversial deal.
The Anglo-Australia mining giants on Saturday signed a binding agreement to combine their vast Western Australia iron ore operations, a tie-up expected to result in US$10 billion in savings.
The deal is opposed by Asian and European steel makers, which have called for an investigation into whether it would be anti-competitive.
“Comments are invited from interested parties regarding the proposed joint venture,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.
The two miners said on Saturday they believed EU authorities were already investigating the deal, which is expected to be complete by the second half of next year. Rio and BHP will evenly split their Western Australian iron ore assets and liabilities and have said the venture will deliver “substantial synergies” aimed at producing more iron ore at lower cost.
Announced after the collapse of a US$19.5 billion bid for Rio by Chinese state-owned firm Chinalco (中國鋁業), the deal also follows BHP’s dropping of a hostile takeover bid for Rio amid the global economic turmoil in November last year.
The ACCC gave BHP’s earlier takeover bid the green light, finding it would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition, despite the fact it would combine two of the world’s three largest suppliers of seaborne iron ore.
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