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ACCC wins fight against BlueScope, Star Entertainment slapped with fines and Bellevue Gold raises $70m

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By Louis Allen - 
BlueScope Steel BSL ACCC Star Entertainment Group SGR fines Bellevue Gold BGL Downer DOW Chalice Mining CHN ASX

The ACCC has found BlueScope Steel guilty of attempted price fixing.


Australia’s competition watchdog has won its fight against the nation’s biggest steel maker BlueScope Steel (ASX: BSL) over price fixing concerns that date back to around a decade ago.

On Friday, Federal Court Justice Michael O’Bryan ruled in favour of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought civil proceedings against BlueScope and former general manager, sales and marketing Jason Ellis.

ACCC commissioner Liza Carver confirmed the ruling.

“The court has found that BlueScope, which is one of Australia’s largest companies, and its former senior executive, Jason Ellis, attempted to induce competitors to enter into price fixing arrangements,” she said.

BlueScope and Mr Ellis’ actions reportedly took place between September 2013 and June 2014.

The court believes the inducements fixed or raised the cost of flat steel products in Australia, as the increased costs would have been worn by millions of consumers.

“If successful, these attempts would have resulted in agreements between competitors which reduced price competition in the Australian flat steel market and increased prices for flat steel products which are widely used in Australia,” Ms Carver said.

BlueScope announced it was “disappointed” by the court’s decision and would consider appealing.

“In the time since BlueScope first became aware of the conduct which led to the legal proceedings, BlueScope has implemented a number of steps to substantially strengthen its programs to enhance awareness of, and compliance with, competition law,” BlueScope chairman John Bevan said.

Bellevue Gold

Bellevue Gold (ASX: BGL) has successfully completed a $70 million capital raise to accelerate development of its gold project in Western Australia.

The Perth-based company said it received firm commitments for a $60 million share placement, which will complement a further $10 million raised through a share purchase plan.

Funds will go towards fast-tracking underground development and exploration at its Bellevue gold project, where it is targeting first gold in the second half of 2023.

Bellevue aims to accelerate 4,000–5,000m of underground development to open additional production fronts and de-risk post-production run rate and reduce developments costs during ramp up.

Other work will comprise additional grade control, step out and resource definition drilling to improve geological confidence and grow the project resource and reserve inventory.

Funds will also support the company’s balance sheet as it nears commercial production.

Bellevue managing director Steve Parsons said the project is on track to realising its expected results.

“Every aspect of the project is going to plan or better. Development rates, grade control drilling results and exploration are all exceeding our expectations,” he said.

“The success is providing us with an opportunity to unlock the value of the project sooner and to a greater extent than originally planned.”

The Star Entertainment Group

Following a lengthy review, The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) has been served $100 million in fines, suspended for 90 days, and had a special manager appointed to monitor its two Queensland casinos.

Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman announced the verdict on Friday, warning The Star “has 12 months to get their house in order”.

“Queensland casinos must operate with integrity – and it is clear that there have been major failings by the Star group and its entities,” she said.

“Like many Queenslanders, I was appalled at the extent of the actions of Star in welcoming excluded persons to their casinos and the exorbitant incentives on offer for questionable gamblers.”

The independent review by former Court of Appeal judge Robert Gotterson found Star was encouraging patrons, who were banned interstate, to gamble at its Queensland casinos, highlighting a “lively disregard” for the law.

The 90-day suspension has been deferred until December 2023 if the giant is unable to address the issues brought to light.

Ms Fentiman said the penalties were carefully considered following the findings of the Gotterson review.

“These disciplinary actions aim to strike a balance between ensuring that thousands of Queenslanders can remain employed, but also sending that very strong message that what happened here in Star casinos is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Nicholas Weeks has been chosen as the special manager in Queensland, to overlook the company’s two casinos.

Downer Group

Leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand Downer Group (ASX: DOW) has slashed its profit guidance and realised “accounting irregularities” in its utilities arm.

The company told investors that it discovered irregularities involving the historical misreporting of revenue and work in progress in one of its maintenance contracts.

Downer EDI’s shares plunged 20% on Thursday, reaching its lowest point in more than two years, as chief executive officer Grant Fenn tried to ease the pain for investors suggesting the accounting issue was not systemic.

“We do not believe this situation is present in any other contracts within Downer,” he said.

Downer has since launched an investigation into the matter, which it said has been occurring for more than three years between September 2019 and November 2022.

The company said the results are preliminary, but suggest it overstated earnings for the contract by between $30 and $40 million over the duration.

“Any potential ongoing impact on earnings is still being determined,” it said

As a result, Downer has now slashed its full-year profit guidance to between $210 million and $230 million for FY2023.

Chalice Mining

Chalice Mining (ASX: CHN) has identified “promising” new sulphide mineralisation at the Hooley prospect within its renowned Julimar project in Western Australia.

The company intersected sulphide mineralisation in all five reconnaissance holes from three drill sites at the prospect over a strike length of 1.8km.

Assays comprised 69m at 0.9 grams per tonne platinum group elements, 0.1% nickel, 0.1% copper, and 0.01% cobalt from 312m.

This included a higher grade interval of 3.4 metres at 11.5 g/t PGE, 0.1% nickel, 0.2% copper, 0.01% cobalt from 370.6 metres.

As downhole electromagnetic surveying continues, Chalice awaits the assays for a further nine holes.

Chalice’s share surged around 13% in light of its latest discovery.

In other news this week, the company also announced it entered the second stage of its joint venture with Venture Minerals (ASX: VMS) – commencing ground and airborne electromagnetic surveys, and a geochemical sampling program.

This comes after Chalice identified two new nickel-copper-PGE targets at its South West project, located around 240km south of Perth in the Balingup Metamorphic Belt.