Transurban Group, Australia’s largest toll road operator, has been blocked – for the first time - by the Australian anti-competition regulator from taking over a local toll road in Melbourne.

On the back of objections that it had received, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stopped Transurban from taking over the 39km EastLink toll road in Melbourne.

Transurban sought to buy a 55.45% stake in Horizon Roads, the company which owns the concession to run Eastlink until 2043 in a deal expected to value the company at about A$6.5bn (€3.9bn), including debt.

“The proposed acquisition would result in Transurban entrenching its position in Victoria, and prevent the entry of a rival operator which could compete closely for future toll road concessions in Victoria. Transurban would operate every single private-sector controlled toll road in Australia,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“The ACCC received submissions expressing strong concerns from stakeholders. We also received a submission from the Victorian Government outlining its concerns. The ACCC placed some significance on the concerns expressed by the Victorian Government.”

“We have concluded that if Transurban doesn’t acquire Horizon Roads, it would likely be acquired by a potential long-term rival and could be used as a platform to develop the capabilities needed to compete more strongly for other toll road concessions,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We therefore found that Transurban acquiring Horizon Roads would likely deter the emergence of a key rival for future toll road concessions.”

Transurban said it is closely reviewing the decision and will consider all the options available to it. 

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