Competition: Commission publishes the second issue of Competition Merger Brief 

On 3 March 2015, the Commission published the second issue of its Competition Merger Brief. Competition Merger Briefs are written by the staff of the Competition Directorate-General to provide background information concerning policy discussions. In this second issue, the authors cover four interesting recent cases. The articles on Facebook/Whatsapp and Liberty/Global deal with mergers in fast-moving technology markets. The article on Huntsman/Rockwood provides interesting lessons for the chemical industry, and Holcim/Lafarge is an example of an exceptionally big case, both in terms of the merger itself and the remedies package, which was concluded in phase I thanks to clear-cut upfront remedies. In these articles, the authors outline in detail the significance of these cases and the intricacies of the authors’ investigations. Source: Competition Merger Brief, Issue 1/2015

Competition: Philips appeals against smart card chip cartel decision

On 2 March 2015, the Official Journal published notice of an appeal lodged by Philips and Philips France (together “Philips”) to the General Court against the Commission’s decision on the smart card chips cartel, in which the Commission fined four companies (including Philips) for coordinating their market behavior for smart card chips in the EEA, in breach of Article 101 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the  European Union (“TFEU”). In the appeal, Philips claims that the Commission failed to establish the alleged infringement of Article 101 TFEU to the requisite standard. In addition, Phillips claims that the Commission committed procedural errors, failed to handle the case fairly and impartially, and breached the companies’ rights of defense. Further, Philips claims that the Commission erred in the calculation of the fine it imposed. In its appeal, Philips seeks annulment of the Commission’s decision or a reduction of the EUR 20 million fine imposed on Philips. Source: Case T-762/14 Philips and Philips France v. Commission, OJ C 73/37, 2 March 2015

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into support measures granted by Fondo Interbancario di Tutela dei Depositi in favor of Italian Banca Tercas

On 27 February 2015, the Commission announced that it has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether support measures granted by the Italian mandatory deposit guarantee scheme Fondo Interbancario di Tutela dei Depositi (“FITD”) in favor of the ailing Italian bank Banca Tercas were in line with EU State aid rules. Deposit guarantee schemes are mandatory under EU law to ensure that covered deposits are paid out when a bank is liquidated and exits the market, in which case there are no State aid issues. However, when a mandatory deposit guarantee scheme intervenes beyond this pay-out function to grant support to ailing banks themselves, it is likely that the measures were granted through State resources. This may give the beneficiary bank an undue advantage over its competitors. The Commission considers that FITD's interventions to support Banca Tercas may have constituted State aid within the meaning of EU rules. The Commission must verify that all such public measures respect EU state aid rules. For instance, the Commission’s 2013 Banking Communication aims to minimize competition distortions in the Single Market. The Commission continued that these rules are intended to limit the amount of public funds used to the minimum amount necessary. The rules are also meant to ensure that the aid beneficiary an makes an appropriate contribution of its own to the restructuring costs. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Italy and interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. Source:Commission Press Release 27/2/2015

In addition, kindly note the following merger control decisions by the Commission which are published on the website of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition:

  • Commission approves acquisition of Garanti by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria
  • Commission approves acquisition of E.On Spain by Macquarie and Wren House