ANZ gets green light for Suncorp merger

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ANZ has had a significant legal win on appeal, with its proposed $4.9 billion acquisition of Suncorp's banking arm given the go-ahead.

The decision to authorise the takeover was handed down this morning by the Australian Competition Tribunal (ACT), despite initially being blocked by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in August last year.

At the time, the ACCC said it was not satisfied with the proposal because it would reduce competition in the banking market. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank also opposed the decision.

anz suncorp merger gets green light

This morning, ACT deputy president Justice John Halley said there were sufficient "net public benefits" to allow the deal to go ahead.

"The tribunal has concluded that the small increase in the market share of ANZ, if the proposed acquisition proceeds, would not have a meaningful impact on the degree of likelihood of the major banks engaging in successful co-ordination," Halley says.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott says the tribunal's ruling was a "significant milestone and an important step forward".

"Suncorp Bank is a high-quality business with a strong team and excellent customer base, and we look forward to bringing them access to the best of ANZ, including our platforms and technology," Elliott says.

"We strongly believe that the acquisition presents significant opportunities for ANZ, Suncorp Bank and our customers, as well as major public benefits for Queensland."

Meanwhile, Suncorp Group chair Christine McLoughlin says the decision reflects the importance of strong, sustainable insurance and banking systems equipped to meet the changing needs of customers, communities, and the broader economy.

"It's also a big win for Queensland with both Suncorp and ANZ announcing significant jobs and investment packages as part of the bank sale process," McLoughlin says.

Suncorp Group chief executive Steve Johnston says the sale of the bank would result in Suncorp becoming a "dedicated Trans-Tasman insurance company" at a time when the value of insurance and the need for continued investment in a vibrant private insurance sector had never been greater.

"Our ability to meet the rapidly evolving needs of insurance customers and address increasingly complex challenges such as climate change and affordability will be significantly strengthened through dedicated investment as a pureplay insurance company," Johnston says.

The Finance Sector Union (FSU) says it opposes the takeover.

"The continual erosion of competition is bad for consumers and bad for jobs," FSU national president Wendy Streets says.

"The big four already have a stranglehold on banking in Australia and we are concerned about smaller banks being relentlessly consumed by larger predators."

Streets says: "It is a concern that the ACT can overturn the ACCC's determination on the basis that the takeover would not substantially reduce competition and that the public would benefit from greater efficiencies."

Completion of the acquisition remains subject to legislative amendments by the Queensland Parliament and approval by Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

At the time of writing, Suncorp's shares have risen as much as 7.8% to $15.56. According to CommSec, this is its highest since August 2018.

ANZ initially entered an agreement to purchase Suncorp Bank in July 2022.

This article first appeared on Financial Standard

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Chloe Walker is a freelance finance journalist who has contributed to Money and Financial Standard. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from QUT.