The on again, off again AU$11 billion merger between Australian gaming giants Tabcorp and Tatts Group is back on after the Australian Competition Tribunal gave the green light for the second time in five months.
In a brief statement after handing down his decision on Friday, Justice John Middleton said, “The tribunal is satisfied in all the circumstances that the proposed merger would result, or would be likely to result, in such a benefit to the public that the acquisition should be allowed to occur.”
The ruling doesn’t quite put the matter to bed, with a 28-day appeal period in place for opponents such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or the online bookmaker owned by Crown Resorts, CrownBet, to again formalize their objections. However, it now seems only a matter of time before the merger goes ahead.
The tribunal’s latest ruling comes after the Federal Court set aside its original decision in September amid ACCC concerns that the tribunal erred by failing to take into account all possible instances of competition being lessened by the acquisition and by failing to compare the likely future state of competition both with and without the proposed acquisition in its consideration of whether the proposed acquisition was likely to result in any detriment.
However, the biggest question now seems to be “when” rather than “if” the merger will proceed.
In a statement, Tabcorp reaffirmed its desire to complete the deal before the end of the year while Tatts Group acknowledged there could be some delay due to the appeal period and the need to provide supplementary disclosures to shareholders ahead of the planned vote on 30 November.