EU Competition

Summary published of Lundbeck pay­for­delay decision.

On 7 March 2015, a summary of the European Commission’s June 2013 decision fining Lundbeck and several producers of generic medicines for preventing market entry of competing cheaper generic medicines of Lundbeck’s branded citalopram, an antidepressant medicine, in breach of Article 101 of the TFEU, was published in the Official Journal (Case AT.39226 – Lundbeck (OJ 2015 C80/)).

EU Cartels

Ombudsman criticises Commission for statements made in interest rate derivatives investigation. On 12 March 2015, the European Ombudsman issued a draft recommendation to the European Commission that it should consider issuing guidelines on public statements by Commissioners about ongoing investigations, following a complaint by Credit Agricole SA and Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank that statements made by the former Competition Commissioner gave the impression that the Commission had already reached a conclusion regarding Credit Agricole’s participation in the Euro interest rate derivatives cartel before the investigation was complete.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7422 – Riverstone / Barclays / Origon (11/03/2015)
  • M.7511 – BARCLAYS BANK / CNP BARCLAYS VIDA Y PENSIONES COMPANIA DE SEGUROS (10/03/2015)
  • M.7513 – AR Packaging Group / MWV European Tobacco and General Packaging Folding Carton Operations (09/03/2015)
  • M.7528 – Cheung Kong Holdings / Eversholt (12/03/2015)
  • M.7546 – Apollo / Delta Lloyd (12/03/2015)
  • M.7547 – Varo / Gekol (10/03/2015)

State Aid

Commission opens in­depth state aid investigation into Hungarian advertisement tax. On 12 March 2015, the European Commission announced that it has decided to open an in­depth state aid investigation into Hungary’s Advertisement Tax Act, which creates a new special tax on advertisements published in the media in Hungary and applies to all media companies. Under  the Act, companies are taxed at a rate, ranging from 0% to 50%, depending on their advertisement turnover, and companies with a higher advertisement turnover are subject to a significantly higher tax rate. The Commission is concerned that the progressive tax rates could selectively favour certain companies and give them an unfair competitive advantage. The Commission has, therefore, decided to open an in­depth state aid investigation, under Article 108(2) of the TFEU to examine its concerns further. It has also imposed a suspension injunction prohibiting Hungary from applying the progressive rates until the Commission has finished its assessment.

UK Mergers

CMA decision on acquisition of Lockwell Electrical Distributors by Marlowe Holdings Investments. On 9 March 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published the full text of its decision on the completed acquisition by Marlowe Holdings Investments Limited of Lockwell Electrical Distributors Limited. CMA announced its decision not to refer this merger to a Phase 2 investigation on 19 February 2015. The CMA found that the merger does not give rise  to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition as a result of horizontal unilateral effects in relation to general electrical wholesaling, industrial electrical wholesaling, and the supply of panel building products, given the relative lack of closeness of competition between the parties and the continuing constraint from competing suppliers.

CMA notice to consider undertakings offered in acquisition by Inter City Railways Limited of the ICEC Franchise. On 9 March 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its notice to consider undertakings offered in the acquisition by Inter City Railways Limited of the InterCity East Coast Rail (ICER) Franchise. The CMA identified competition concerns on two rail­on­rail overlap flows (Peterborough­Grantham and Peterborough Lincoln) and on two rail­on­coach overlap flows (Edinburgh­Aberdeen and

Edinburgh­Dundee). Stagecoach has offered undertakings to address these concerns, which the CMA considers are likely to provide as comprehensive a solution as is reasonable and  practicable to its concerns. On the Lincoln­Peterborough and Peterborough­Grantham flows, Stagecoach offers to maintain the competitive constraint through commitments on fares. With regard to the Edinburgh­Aberdeen and Edinburgh­Dundee flows, Stagecoach proposes to make structural changes to the Citylink joint venture agreement with ComfortDelGro and the corporate structure governing the direct overlapping Citylink coach services on which the CMA identified competition concerns. The CMA now has until 21 April 2015 to decide whether to accept the undertakings, which it states it will consult on in due course.

UK Competition

High Court judgment on disclosure of the European Commission decision in damages action against Servier. On 12 March 2015, the High Court handed down its judgment on the terms of the confidentiality order governing disclosure of the confidential version of the  European Commission’s decision during proceedings brought by three UK health authorities against Servier Laboratories Limited and others (Servier). The High Court has proposed a two tier approach to disclosure. A full version of the Commission Decision will be made available in the first instance to the UK health authorities’ professional advisers and specified ‘Tier 1’ permitted recipients. Disclosure to a second tier of permitted recipients will only be made if the solicitors acting for the UK health authorities consider it is necessary to do so for the purpose of either the current proceedings or new proceedings applying Article 101 and/or Article 102 of the TFEU, which arise from the subject matter of these proceedings. (Secretary of State for Health and others v Servier Laboratories and others ([2015] EWHC 647 (Ch)).)

Trade

Commission plans to impose duties on Chinese and Taiwanese steel imports. Such duties could amount to European importers of these products paying as much as 25% in tariffs to counter unfair pricing and government aid. The Commission is investigating whether cheap imports of cold­rolled steel from China and Taiwan are damaging Europe’s domestic energy.

Commission imposes antidumping duties on Chinese ceramic tile suppliers. On 11 March 2015, the Commission imposed individual punitive dumping tariffs with a margin of 13.9% on ceramic­tile manufacturer Gani, and a margin of 32% on fellow tile manufacturer Wonderful, having found that neither manufacturer no longer have any corporate links.

Chinese solar panel manufacturer received a letter from the Commission regarding compliance issues with an undertaking agreement. The solar panel maker, ReneSola, announced that the Commission had notified the Company that they face a potential compliance issue with a deal on minimum prices for imports in Europe. The company states in a press release that it has fully complied with the EU rules for the undertaking and will present supporting evidence to the executive.

Speeches & Publications

CMA working paper on the gas wholesale market. On 10 March 2015, the CMA published a working paper on the gas wholesale market. This forms part of the series of working papers being published by the CMA to accompany the updated issues paper for the energy market investigation.

FCA paper on the impact of annual summaries, text alerts, and mobile apps on consumer banking behaviour. On 11 March 2015, the FCA published a research paper on the impact of annual summaries, text alerts, and mobile apps on consumer banking behaviour. The FCA’s paper concludes that it can be difficult to design disclosures that help consumers navigate markets better in practice.