The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published a Statement of Preliminary Views concerning ANZ’s push to assume full ownership of Suncorp Bank — first announced in July 2022.
The ACCC is exploring whether the $4.9 billion deal would undermine competition across the banking sector. This includes considering:
- Whether the proposed acquisition of an established second-tier bank would result in the “potential loss of competitive constraint on the major banks”.
- Whether the deal would give rise to “coordinated effects in one or more relevant markets”.
- Whether the proposal would limit ANZ’s incentives to “compete vigorously” in one or more relevant markets.
- The impact of the proposed acquisition on the potential risk of unilateral effects arising in the supply of agribusiness banking, SME banking, mortgage lending, and retail deposits.
ANZ and Suncorp Bank have sought to allay these concerns, noting potential benefits for customers, including “increased scale to enable continual and more efficient investment in digital transformation and innovation”.
ANZ has also claimed the deal would expand its footprint in the retail and business banking space, particularly in Queensland, and would result in stronger financial returns.
Meanwhile, Suncorp has claimed divesting Suncorp Bank to ANZ positions both Suncorp Group’s insurance business and Suncorp Bank for “ongoing growth and success as separate, monoline businesses”.
But the ACCC is unconvinced.
“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the information currently before it is insufficient to substantiate the nature, likelihood, and extent of the claimed public benefits, including ANZ’s estimates of future synergies that will be achieved and claims regarding public commitments to investment in Queensland or improvements in prudential stability arising from the proposed acquisition,” the watchdog noted.
As such, the ACCC has extended the consultation period, inviting further stakeholder feedback by 18 April 2023, with a final decision due on 12 June 2023.
“We are seeking comment on issues including the extent to which it will impact lending rates, deposit rates, fees and charges, consumer choice, service levels, and innovation,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.
“Our home loan price inquiry reports of 2018 and 2020 showed competition between the biggest four banks has been at best muted.
“Any acquisition of a potential rival by one of the major banks must be closely considered.”
ANZ chief executive officer Shayne Elliott said the bank would issue a detailed response to the concerns raised in the ACCC report.
“When we announced the acquisition, we acknowledged that there would be questions from government and regulators about the competition aspects of this transaction, and we welcomed that scrutiny,” he said.
“We welcome the further community consultation that will now occur.
“Queensland is thriving and faces the prospect of strong opportunities to further grow and prosper. We’re excited to invest in the opportunities ahead.”
Suncorp also issued a statement, reiterating that the sale of Suncorp Bank to ANZ is “in the best interests of its customers, employees, shareholders, the state of Queensland, and the nation”.
“If the transaction is approved, Suncorp would become a dedicated insurer at a time when the value of insurance to the Trans-Tasman economy and the public has never been greater,” the ASX-listed financial services group added.
Suncorp had initially been approached by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, but declined the proposed acquisition.
In its latest statement, issued in response to Bendigo’s submission to the ACCC, Suncorp claimed a merger with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank would be “inferior to both a sale to ANZ and Suncorp Bank’s own organic plan”.