Australian regulators oppose Lowe’s acquisition

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced its opposition to the proposed acquisition of G. Gay & Co, a three-unit chain of hardware stores in Ballarat, Victoria, by the Woolworths/Lowe’s retail joint venture.

According to the M2 PressWIRE, the ACCC ruled that the proposed acquisition would remove one of Woolworths/Lowe’s two closest competitors in the Ballarat area, resulting in a substantial lessening of competition. The only other remaining key competitor of Woolworth/Lowe’s would be Bunnings, a national chain that operates almost 300 locations across Australia and New Zealand.

"The ACCC is concerned about the removal of a key independent competitor from the market to the detriment of competition and local consumers," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in the news report. "G. Gay & Co is a vigorous and effective competitor in terms of price, product range and service, and is likely to provide a strong competitive constraint on Masters in the Ballarat area." 

Masters Home Improvement is the trade name of stores being operated by Australia-based Woolworths and North Carolina-based Lowe’s in a joint venture. The first Masters opened in 2011; at the time, the two retailers said they planned to roll out 100 units in the next five years. 

The ACCC's investigation indicated that the remaining home-improvement stores in the Ballarat area were either too small or too limited in their product offerings when compared with G. Gay & Co stores. As such, they would be unlikely to compete effectively against the new Masters store, the ACCC said.