A WATCHDOG decision on competing bids for logistics, ports and rail freight operator Asciano Ltd has been delayed.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Friday that its new "indicative decision date" on the Brookfield and Qube consortium bids for Asciano is March 24.
It had previously said it would rule on the bids on February 18.
But on Friday the ACCC confirmed the late $8.94 billion formal bid by Qube and its consortium partners Global Infrastructure Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and CIC Capital Corporation, did not leave sufficient time to assess it by February 18.
Brookfield Asset Management (BAM) and a consortium of wholly-owned subsidiary companies, including Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) which owns Brookfield Rail in WA, announced a $8.9b cash-and-scrip takeover offer for Asciano in October and made a formal bid in December.
In November the ACCC flagged it had concerns about a potential for lessening of competition on WA's freight rail network because of BIP acquiring freight rail haulage business Pacific National (PN) as part of the proposed takeover.
Shortly after the BAM offer, Qube announced it would make a counter offer, with the aim of retaining Asciano's complementary logistics and port businesses and divesting the PN rail business to its consortium partners.
The formal cash-and-scrip bid on January 28, however, came later than the ACCC had anticipated.
Chairman Rod Sims on Friday confirmed the ACCC had anticipated the Qube bid would be made in sufficient time for it to be considered alongside the Brookfield bid by February 18.
"The ACCC requires time to consult on Qube's transaction structure, given we have only had details of the structure for a very short period," Mr Sims said.
"We also need to consider whether revised undertakings offered by Qube can be consulted on, and if so, time for that consultation to take place," he said.
The ACCC said it also needed extra time to consider public submissions on a second set of undertakings offered by BAM subsidiary Nitro Holdings designed to allay ACCC concerns about the WA freight rail network.
CBH Group and WAFarmers both lodged objections with the ACCC last month over Nitro's undertaking to sell off a divestment company controlling PN's container, steel and car carrying businesses.
But in the undertaking Nitro specifically excluded divesting PN's wagons and locomotives used to transport "minerals, concentrates or grain".
PN's 2015 annual report lists CBH grain marketing competitors Graincorp, Manildra Group, Cargill, Emerald Grain and Glencore among its Eastern States agricultural bulk haulage customers.
The Nitro undertaking is considered to rule out the possibility of significant containerised grain leaving or coming into WA by rail but still leaves the door open to possible interstate bulk grain movement.
On Monday Asciano's board told the Australian Securities Exchange it had notified Brookfield of a revised offer from Qube and its consortium partners.
The revised offer was $7.04 cash and one Qube share for each Asciano share which, based on last Friday's closing price of Qube shares of $2.20, gave an implied value of $9.24 to Asciano shares.
It was 7c cash more a share than the original Qube offer.
The Brookfield offer was understood to be worth about $8.90 an Asciano share.
Asciano's board said it had "triggering its matching rights under the Brookfield bid implementation deed" indicating it hoped for a bidding war.