AWB Split Draws Mixed Reactions

Australian monopoly wheat exporter retains 'single desk' system, an idea meeting with some opposition.

Published on: Dec 1, 2006

Australian wheat monopoly exporter AWB, a company mired in a bribery scandal, announced plans this week to split into two separate companies.

"The de-merger process will enable a structured and orderly transition of the company and board renewal, including the chairman's role," says AWB Ltd chairman Brendan Stewart, who says he will step down after shareholders approve the split.

However, not everyone believes the company's planned split spells a solution.

Callum Downs analyst Malcolm Bartholomaeus is calling for immediate changes to AWB's marketing monopoly, including changes to the 'single desk' system. Under currently planned split, AWB will divide into a purely commercial agribusiness company and a wholly grower-owned single desk manager.

If the single desk does remain, Bartholomaeus says transparency, and end to political interference, and a new focus on morals are necessary to make the wheat export system work in Australia - with or without the single desk.

"AWB has been found to use unethical methods internationally, and in the Australian market, and the market needs to be rid of that," Mr. Bartholomaeus says in a Rural Press release.

"Australia has been pushed way, way behind its competitors in North America."