EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7799 SCHLUMBERGER / CAMERON (5 February 2016)
  • M.7851 USS NERO / OPTRUST / PGGM / GLOBAL VIA (8 February 2016)
  • M.7869 MACQUARIE / DOLOMITI ENERGIA / HYDRO DOLOMITI ENEL (9 February 2016)
  • M.7892 THE CARLYLE GROUP / HUNKEMOLLER (8 February 2016)
  • M.7894 CINVEN / ERGO ITALIA (10 February 2016)
  • M.7921 CINVEN / KURT GEIGER (10 February 2016)

State Aid

Commission publishes overview of decisions and ongoing in-depth investigations of financial institutions in difficulty. On 10 February 2016, the European Commission (Commission) published an overview of the decisions and on-going investigations into national State aid measures to financial institutions in difficulty. This overview includes a table summarising each of the decisions taken by the Commission to approve aid granted by each Member State to support the financial sector under Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and in accordance with the Commission's previous Banking Communication, the Recapitalisation Communication, Impaired Assets Communication and Restructuring Communication. The table also contains details of decisions to prolong and amend approved aid schemes.

Commission approves impaired asset management measures for banks in Hungary and Italy. On 10 February 2016, the Commission announced that Hungarian and Italian plans aimed at transferring non-performing loans off the balance sheets of Hungarian and Italian banks do not constitute State aid under the EU rules on State aid. The Commission has found that the pricing models used by the Hungarian asset management company, MARK, ensure it will buy such non-performing loans at market prices. The Commission also decided that under the State guarantee scheme, chosen by the Italian authorities, the State will be remunerated in line with market conditions for the risk it will assume for granting a guarantee on securitised non-performing loans.

Commission opens in-depth investigation into measures for Spanish postal operator Correos. On 11 February 2016, the Commission announced that pursuant to two complaints it has received, it has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether Spanish funding granted to Correos (between 2004 and 2010), the publicly-owned Spanish postal operator, was in line with EU State aid rules. In particular, the Commission will assess whether the funding Spain granted to Correos overcompensated the company for carrying out its postal public service obligation, as well as whether a number of other measures have given Correos an undue advantage. Spain instructed Correos to be the universal postal service provider (UPSP) – being a UPSP includes delivering basic postal services throughout a country at affordable prices and in line with certain minimum requirements.

Trade

Commission and Mexico to start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products. On 10 February 2016, it was announced that the government of Mexico and the Commission will start negotiations on a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products with a view to acknowledging the equivalence of each other's organic product legislation and control systems. Both sides confirmed their interest to swiftly conclude an agreement that would allow expanding the market for organic farmers. In both Mexico and the EU, the organic sector has been rapidly developing.

Commission launches a public consultation on future measures to prevent dumped imports from China. On 10 February 2016, the Commission launched an online public consultation as regards the methods used in the EU's antidumping procedures concerning China. The question is whether, and if so, how, the EU should change the treatment of China as a market economy in its anti-dumping investigations after December 2016. The online consultation, which will be open for ten weeks, invites stakeholders to give their opinion on the various options being considered by the Commission.

UK Competition

The Competition Act 1998 (Public Transport Ticketing Schemes Block Exemption) (Amendment) Order 2016 published. On 8 February 2016, the Competition Act 1998 (Public Transport Ticketing Schemes Block Exemption) (Amendment) Order 2016 was published. The Order amends the Competition Act 1998 (Public Transport Ticketing Schemes Block Exemption) Order 2001, as most recently amended in 2011. The block exemption exempts certain types of transport ticketing agreements from Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998, insofar as they meet certain specified conditions. In particular, it allows for public transport operators to enter into agreements to offer passengers tickets that they can use on the services of two or more operators.

NAO report on the UK competition regime. On 5 February 2016, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a review of the UK competition regime. The NAO report concluded that the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has taken an innovative approach to merger control, has strengthened processes to improve the robustness of its work, and has encouraged greater co-ordination across regulators. Furthermore, the report stated that the CMA and the regulators are acting to improve the detection of anti competitive behaviour and to build a pipeline of cases, but that the system has so far failed to produce a substantial flow of enforcement decisions. The NAO also observes that the CMA inherited a difficult legal environment, low business awareness of competition law, and reputational damage resulting from high-profile lost cases. The NAO made a number of recommendations to government, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the CMA and sectoral regulators to help tackle some of the remaining problems.

Speeches & Publications

Speech by Carles Esteva Mosso on the contribution of merger control to the definition of harm to competition. The Commission has published a speech on the contribution of merger control to the definition of harm to competition given by Carles Esteva Mosso, Acting Deputy Director-General for Mergers on 1 February 2016. In particular, Mr Esteva discussed the convergence of merger control towards antitrust enforcement. Mr Esteva concluded by addressing the question of whether there is (or should be) a single analytical framework for Article 101 of the TFEU and merger control on the basis that numerous concepts and methodological approaches (such as market definition and market power, single or collective dominance and the counterfactual, efficiencies or the effectiveness of a remedy, amongst others) are common to both anti-trust and merger analysis.