AUSTRALIA’S peak competition watchdog is concerned a proposed takeover of a Ballarat hardware company by a multinational corporation will be unfair for local business.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has flagged a number of uncertainties about the sale of Ballarat’s G Gay & Co to John Danks and Son — a joint venture between Woolworths and American company Lowe’s.
If the acquisition of Gay’s two Home Timber and Hardware stores and Ballarat Building Supplies goes ahead, the ACCC feels it could hurt consumer competition in Ballarat.
However the owner of the family-owned hardware store feels there will be healthy competition regardless.
In a Statement of Issues released this week, the ACCC said the joint venture’s plans to buy G Gay & Co could have a “substantial effect on competition in the retail of hardware and home improvement products in the Ballarat area”.
However company owner David Gay said there was extremely strong competition in Ballarat, which would continue even if the business was sold.
The ACCC’s preliminary views outline the possible monopoly as a concern, with a final decision on the sale to be made in July.
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“I’m a bit surprised that they have come to the conclusion that there is a concern,” said Mr Gay.
“There is ample competition in Ballarat from our point of view, that’s for sure.”
The ACCC said Masters also planned to open a big-box store on Learmonth Road, Wendouree, next year, which would give it four out of the six retail hardware stores in Ballarat.
Masters is also owned by Woolworths.
The report regards Bunnings and Dahlsens as the only two other competitors, which Mr Gay disagrees with.
“You have got Whiteheads Timber Sales and Robert Sim Building Supplies, which the ACCC hasn’t considered either,” he said.
Mr Gay also pointed to Dan Murphy’s, Beer Wine Spirits and Safeway Liquor, all of which are owned by Woolworths, as examples of strong competition even when one company owned different businesses.
A Woolworths spokesman last night said the company would work with the ACCC throughout the inquiry process.