TOLL HOLDINGS planned to announce a revised offer for Patrick Corp during the second half of March after the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission agreed to drop its opposition to the deal (RG 3.06 p122). This followed commitments by Toll which addressed the ACCC’s concerns about competition.

Instrumental in persuading the ACCC to pull back from blocking Toll’s bid was an undertaking to sell its 50% share in Pacific National. In a statement on March 13, the ACCC said that it had accepted revised undertakings from Toll which ’are far more extensive than previously offered’.

Toll has made it clear that it ’will make available a bundle of assets and services’ to facilitate another operator setting up on the lucrative east-west haul across Australia. It has agreed to give up five paths, to make available 12 locomotives plus a fleet of wagons for another operator to use, and to provide ancillary services such as crewing, fuelling and maintenance. Further, it will sell off the Minto yard in Sydney and relinquish its interest in the Dynon terminal in Melbourne, together with access tracks and land.

Interest now centres on who will bid for the 50% share of PN - possible buyers include Babcock & Brown, which is Queensland Rail’s partner in the acquisition of Australia Railroad Group in Western Australia (RG 3.06 p111).

QR has in the meantime won a critical legal battle over control of the Acacia Ridge terminal in Brisbane. Acacia Ridge is owned by QR and is the only location where freight can be transferred between standard gauge trains from New South Wales and QR’s 1067mm gauge network. However, after Freightcorp and National Rail Corp were sold in 2003 to PN - a move which gave PN control of standard gauge track and terminals - QR sought to terminate the lease on the terminal which allowed PN to use it. PN fought back, contending that QR had no right to do this. On February 16 the Federal Court ruled in favour of QR, saying that the site should be operated by the owner. PN was given 90 days to negotiate an access deal with QR.