Back on the Waterfront

The latest move from Qube may see Chris Corrigan back on the waterfront in Australia’s major ports. Asciano, owners of both Pacific National and Patrick, are now the subject of second takeover bid from Qube, following the earlier bid from railway operator, Brookfield.


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In the latest offer, Qube are working with two entities, Global Infrastructure Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The plan is for Qube to take ownership of the Patrick port terminal business, while GIM and CPPIB take on the ownership of the Pacific nNational rail business.


The earlier takeover bid, from Canadian rail operator, Brookfield, has attracted the interest of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This is because it would result in the company owning both the rail track and the trains running on it, in some areas, which has been seen as an obstruction to a free market in the past.


The Qube bid would see Corrigan back at the helm of the Patrick organisation, just over ten years after he rode off on his well earned cycling holiday in Italy, after the long and bitter fight for control of his ports business with Paul Little. In order to address ACCC concerns, Toll separated out into Asciano and Toll soon afterwards.


After a bumpy start, Asciano has settled down as the owner of some major assets in Australia’s ports and performed well enough to become a takeover target, when investors saw the end of the resources boom and the fall of the Aussie dollar put pressure on valuations. The latest offer from Qube values the company 22.4 per cent higher than the share price, which was suspended on the announcement of the potential Brookfield deal.


It will also see the return of a familiar face in the ports world. Corrigan became a well known face on the TV sets of Australia during the long waterfront dispute with his Patrick Corporation locking horns with the Maritime Union of Australia from June 1997 through to June 1998.


Seven years later, Corrigan was back in the news with Patrick fighting long and hard (over nine months) to resist Paul Little’s Toll taking control of the ports giant. When the dust settled two entities Toll and Asciano has swallowed up Patrick and Corrigan left the public stage. He would reappear sometime later, in 2010, when the Qube Logistics was formed and included the port elements of P&O.