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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Toll pledge to sell off vessels
� Bass Strait shipping shake-up looming

examiner.com.au : Toll pledge to sell off vessels
� Bass Strait shipping shake-up looming


Bass Strait shipping services could be set for a shake-up, with the possible sale of Patrick's cargo vessels Searoad Mersey and Searoad Tamar.

In an attempt to appease the concerns of the competition regulator, transport giant Toll Holdings said this week it would sell Patrick's Bass Strait shipping and freight forwarding operations if it succeeded in its hostile takeover bid for Patrick.

The ACCC is seeking an injunction against Toll in the Federal Court to block the takeover, saying the merger would reduce competition in the transport market.

In a series of undertakings to the Federal Court, Toll also said it would preserve the joint venture structure of the Pacific National rail operator by introducing a new equity partner to the operation should it succeed in winning over Patrick's shareholders.

Toll and Patrick, which each have a 50 per cent share in Pacific National, are engaged in a bitter dispute over the future of the rail operator, with Patrick chief Chris Corrigan recently starting legal action to dissolve the joint venture, describing the Pacific National board as "dysfunctional".

Pacific National is yet to respond to a $120 million offer from the State and Federal Governments to secure the future of Tasmania's intermodal rail services.

Despite requesting a Government bail-out of its Tasmanian operation, Patrick said yesterday Pacific National would likely post an annual profit of $77.7 million.

But even on this, the joint-venture partners could not agree.

Toll expects the profit will be even higher at $97.8 million.

The company said in September last year it would shut down the service in the absence of a Government handout to upgrade infrastructure.

Patrick still wants to break up Pacific National, but Toll is resisting.

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