Analysis: OfficeMax New Zealand sold

But how can ComCom ensure Platinum Equity runs Winc NZ as a completely separate entity until it is sold?

Platinum Equity has completed its acquisition of OfficeMax New Zealand although the US firm still has not found a buyer for the Winc New Zealand business it has agreed to divest.

In April 2018, it was revealed that New Zealand’s competition authority, the Commerce Commission (ComCom), had reached an agreement with Platinum whereby Platinum undertook to divest Winc NZ to a ComCom-approved buyer once it had completed its acquisition of OfficeMax NZ.

In a statement to OPI, ComCom said: “Platinum has completed its acquisition of OfficeMax NZ. There will now be a period of time when Platinum owns both OfficeMax NZ and Winc NZ. During this period, Platinum has undertaken to the New Zealand High Court and the Commission that Winc NZ will be held and managed as a separate going concern. Ring-fencing obligations are also in place to ensure that Winc NZ’s confidential information is protected. The Commission has not yet approved a purchaser for Winc NZ Limited.”

Quite how ComCom will police Platinum’s undertaking to ring-fence Winc NZ remains to be seen. As far as OPI is aware, the Australia-based senior management at Platinum-owned Winc hold wider ANZ roles, overseeing operations both in Australia and New Zealand, and the New Zealand unit relies on Australia for mission-critical things such as its IT system. How it can fully function as an independent, standalone company is a bit of a mystery; as is how senior management located in Australia will not be privy to sensitive information that could potentially harm Winc NZ’s competitive position.

Dominique Lyone, CEO of Australian independent dealer Complete Office Supplies (COS), told OPI recently that he was interested in acquiring Winc NZ, but that Platinum was “not talking” to him. Why would it? It surely doesn’t want to sell to the company that is now its main competitor in Australia following COS’s recent acquisition of Lyreco in the country (see page 11). That would probably be its last resort.

ComCom is there to ensure a level playing field for competition in New Zealand. It recognised the need for OfficeMax NZ and Winc NZ to remain separate, but the way it has gone about allowing Platinum to acquire ‘Max NZ would from the outset appear to seriously undermine the competitive position of Winc NZ.

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