Down Under Trucking: hostile takeover; dangerous chem-tanks; liquid fuel security

It’s been busy in Australian trucking. A hostile takeover bid has succeeded, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. An innovative Aussie manufacturer has invented a new kind of intermodal tanker for dangerous chemicals. This, and more, in Down Under Trucking.

AP Eagers hits 51 percent shareholding in hostile takeover target

Automotive retailer AP Eagers (ASX: APE) announced on March 01 that shareholders with 51.3470 percent of the equity in hostile takeover target Automotive Holdings Group (ASX: AHG) have conditionally accepted APE’s bid.

In an all-scrip offer, APE had offered 1 APE share for every 3.8 shares in AHG, which is Australia’s largest car, bus and truck retailer. The management of AHG had strongly resisted the takeover bid.

But it’s not a done deal yet. Shareholders have only conditionally accepted and their approval can still be withdrawn. Plus the local anti-trust regulator, the federal Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is looking at the merger.

The ACCC may grant approval if it is satisfied that a merger is not likely to substantially lessen competition or if the public benefits outweigh any detriment to the public. APE and AHG are the two largest automotive retailers in Australia, the competition watchdog notes, and they both supply new and used cars, trucks, and buses along with associated services. The ACCC is seeking public submissions on the proposed merger and must make a decision on the takeover by the end of July.

Clean energy funder invests A$4m in dangerous chem-tanker manufacturer

Omni Tanker, a manufacturer of advanced road tanks for the transport of dangerous chemicals, has received a A$4 million (USD$2.81 million) investment from the federal government’s clean energy investment agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Omni Tanker has developed a portable, ISO-standard, intermodal road tanker using carbon fibre composites. The new materials have six times greater strength than steel which allows for tanks that are 35 per cent lighter than standard stainless steel tanks. They can also transport a wide range of corrosive liquids and high purity chemicals.

The CEFC is responsible for investing A$10 billion (USD$7.02 billion) in clean energy projects on behalf of the Australian government. The investment in Omni Tanker fits the CEFC’s investment profile because lighter tanks require less energy to transport and produce lower emissions. The CEFC adds that traditional steel tanks are rubber lined and are dedicated to one product only. That means they only carry cargo on the front-haul and are empty on the back-haul.

New tank’s business benefits

Omni Tanks new tanks have a seamless thermoplastic interior and are highly chemically-resistant, which makes for easy cleaning. They also allow for the carriage of more than one type of cargo. Which, as the CEFC points out, “means they can be two-way loaded, reducing asset down-time and empty running, increasing the efficiency and capacity of transportation routes.”

CEFC’s investment is part of a broader A$7.9 million fund raising. The investment will be used to expand Omni Tanker’s manufacturing pant in New South Wales and to invest in the company’s specialist workforce, Omni Tanker CEO Daniel Rodgers said.

The ISO tank container market has a global fleet of more than 550,000 tank containers and is growing by more than eight per cent a year, the CEFC says. It adds that Omni Tanker has approvals for its tanks to transport dangerous goods in the U.S.

Call for road infrastructure investment and liquid fuel security

Trucking trade association NatRoad, which represents the 45,000 or so trucking companies in Australia, has called for infrastructure investment and liquid fuel security.

Calls for action have a particular resonance in Australia at the moment as the country is in the middle of a federal election campaign; the date of the general election is May 18.

“NatRoad especially supports the call for infrastructure investment to be properly evaluated by an independent agency or agencies,” said Warren Clark CEO of NatRoad.

“What is urgently needed is the establishment of a regulator who has control over the way tolled roads are planned, built and operated. At present, the process of deciding which roads should be tolled and how they are integrated into the road system is poorly planned. The setting up of an independent price regulator for heavy vehicles is long overdue and is an essential step in maintaining the long term viability and productivity of the road freight transport industry.”

Security of supply

NatRoads also called for security of supply in liquid fuels.

“Without access to fuel stocks, we don’t have an industry,” NatRoad’s Clark said, noting that the transport sector sources 98 percent of its energy from liquid fuels.

“This means transport is the sector that is most vulnerable to impacts from liquid fuel disruptions. The reality is that diesel enjoys a virtual monopoly in fueling heavy freight vehicles. Most alternative fuels at the current stage of their development involve compromises – such as lower energy density, higher price, reduced driving range or lower thermal efficiency…

“That is not to say we don’t support the development of alternatively fuelled technology. We do. But the reality is the time frame for these technologies to have an impact on the day to day operations of members: we are looking at 10-20 years. That time scale reinforces the need for Government to have in place policies which secure Australia’s access to liquid fuels,” Mr Clark concluded.

He urged a return to holding 90 days of oil stock.

Down Under Trucking across the ditch: new intermodal terminal for Ports of Auckland, New Zealand

Ports of Auckland has opened its Waikato Freight Hub, approximately 72 miles distant (as measured by the road distance on the Southern Motorway 1) from the city of Auckland. The freight hub is located near the town of Hamilton.

The Waikato Freight Hub is a 33 hectare development and a rail connection is due to be built in few years, but, until then, freight will travel by road to the port at Auckland.

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson said that the Waikato Freight Hub “is part of Ports of Auckland’s strategy to support regional and national economic growth with freight hubs in South Auckland, Mount Maunganui, Manawatu and now Waikato. All are located next to rail and are in regions that generate significant volumes of exports that need to be efficiently transported to a major port. Our freight hub network will help lower freight costs, reduce carbon emissions, and offer a wider range of shipping services to North Island exporters and importers.”

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Jim Wilson, Australia Correspondent

Sydney-based journalist and photojournalist, Jim Wilson, is the Australia Correspondent for FreightWaves. Since beginning his journalism career in 2000, Jim has primarily worked as a business reporter, editor, and manager for maritime publications in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. He has won several awards for logistics-related journalism and has had photography published in the global maritime press. Jim has also run publications focused on human resources management, workplace health and safety, venture capital, and law. He holds a degree in law and legal practice.

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