REPORT - Treasury looks at JCDecaux's APN Outdoor acquisition

By AdNews | 10 July 2024
Credit: Charles Cheng via Unsplash

The Federal Treasury is reviewing foreign takeovers involving consultancy groups.

Among the takeovers, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, is the $1.2 billion acquisition in 2018 of APN Outdoor by French multinational outdoor media player JCDecaux. 

AdNews is seeking comment from JCDecaux. 

The crackdown on advice given for Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) applications follows a scandal involving PwC which gave confidential tax information it gained from the federal government to clients. 

Insiders say PwC was the auditor for APN Outdoor at the time of the acquisition and that JCDecaux did not employ PwC.

Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, through a Senate parliamentary inquiry, has been pursuing PwC's activities. 

Treasury, in a reply to a question from Senator Deborah O’Neill, says it is examining its records and working with the ATO (Australian Tax Office) to identify whether any foreign investment applications where PwC was involved were based on false or misleading information. 

"Subject to the findings of these investigations, Treasury will consider what further actions or responses may be appropriate to take,” Treasury told the parliamentary inquiry.  

Providing false and misleading information to the treasurer can result in criminal prosecution, civil penalty or infringement notice action. 

Senator O'Neill had asked: What actions did the FIRB undertake, including but not limited to formal investigation, to determine whether PwC may have engaged in practices which has the potential to mislead or subvert the ATO (Australian Tax Office)?

Treasury replied that it assesses the risks of each foreign investment proposal on a case-by-case basis, and any risks to tax revenue are considered in consultation with the ATO.  

"These assessments consider the validity and completeness of the information provided by investors in their submission," Treasury said. 

"The consultation process complements the ATO’s activities by providing the ATO with insights into the structure of proposed actions by foreign investors which may pose tax risks. 

"This enables the ATO to take proactive steps to develop and recommend conditions to be imposed under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975." 

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