Australians oppose Smurfit-Stone sale


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has blocked Visy Industries' proposed acquisition of Stone Container Australia, owned by Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. A spokesperson from Smurfit-Stone said this was "not a major part of the asset disposal programme". The group "has identified $2 billion (€1.8 billion)" of assets to be sold in the US. Last month, Visy announced an agreement to buy Stone Container, which would have involved taking over Stone's Melbourne and Adelaide warehouses. Visy recycles more than 1.6 million tonnes of waste paper a year and holds a major share of the Australian corrugated carton market.

"We would intervene if they went ahead" said a commission spokeswoman. Mr Allan Fels, commission chairman, noted that the corrugated boxes' market was dominated by Visy and Amcor, and that a merger of Visy and Stone was likely to result in "the removal from the market of a vigorous and effective competitor". He went on "market inquiries indicate that the presence of Stone has resulted in more competitive prices and service in the market, particularly with respect to small to medium sized users of corrugated boxes".

The Jefferson Smurfit group controls 33 per cent of Smurfit-Stone. Its management control of the US group was strengthened earlier this month following the decision of Smurfit-Stone president and chief executive, Mr Roger Stone, to retire one year earlier than indicated when the merger was arranged last year. He is being succeeded by Mr Ray Curran, deputy chief executive of the group, who had been Smurfit's finance director.