EU Antitrust

Commission sends statement of objections to Lithuanian railway incumbent. On 5 January 2015, the European Commission announced that it has sent a statement of objections to the Lithuanian railway incumbent, AB Lietuvos geležinkeliai (LG), alleging breach of Article 102 of the TFEU. Following dawn raids in 2011, the Commission opened formal proceedings in March 2013. The statement of objections alleges that LG limited competition on the rail markets in Lithuania and Latvia by removing a railway track connecting the two countries.

EU Cartels

Commission publishes provisional versions of decisions on TV and computer monitor tubes cartel. The European Commission has published a provisional non-confidential version of its 2012 decision relating to the TV and computer monitor tubes cartel. The Commission found two separate infringements of Article 101 of the TFEU in the cathode ray tubes sector: the first concerned colour display tubes (CDTs) used in computer monitors and the second concerned colour picture tubes (CPTs) used for colour TV. The Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 1.47 billion (EUR 1.142 billion for CPTs and EUR 328 million for CDTs). Various appeals have been lodged against the Commission’s decision.

Commission publishes provisional version of decision on steel abrasives cartel. The European Commission has also published a provisional non-confidential version of its 2014 decision on the steel abrasives cartel. In its decision, the Commission found an EEA-wide cartel operating with the ultimate aim to coordinate prices of street abrasives and to restrict competition in the sector. The Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 30.7 million.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

M.7403 – China State Shipbuilding Corporation / Wärtsilä Dutch Holding / Wärtsilä Switzerland (JV) (06/01/2015)

M.7439 – Energetický a průmyslový holding (EPH) / Eggborough HoldCo 2 S.à r.l. of Luxembourg (07/01/2015)

M.7463 – CVC Capital Partners SICAV-FIS S.A. / CVC Group / Betafence Holding NV (06/01/2015)

State Aid

Commission approves grant of regional investment aid by Slovakia to Duslo. On 6 January 2015, the European Commission announced that it has decided to approve plans by the Slovak authorities to grant state aid to Duslo a.s. to modernise an ammonia production plant. The Commission concluded that this regional investment aid is compatible with the conditions in the Regional Aid Guidelines for 2007-13. The Commission also concluded that the positive effects of the measure on regional development outweigh any distortions of competition that may result from the state aid.

General Court dismisses appeal against decision approving Greek grant of exclusive rights and licence to public gambling operator. On 8 January 2015, the General Court dismissed an appeal by a number of Greek casinos against a European Commission decision that found that there was no state aid involved in the grant of extended exclusive rights to operate 13 games of chance and the grant of an exclusive agreement to operate Video Lottery Terminals to the Greek public gambling operator (OPAP) (Case T-58/13 - Club Hotel Loutraki AE and Others v European Commission, judgment of 8 January 2015).

UK Mergers

CMA refers acquisition by Pork Farms of the chilled savoury pastry business of Kerry Foods for Phase 2 investigation. On 5 January 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it has referred the completed acquisition by Pork Farms Caspian Limited of the chilled savoury pastry business of Kerry Foods Limited for an in-depth investigation. The CMA will now investigate further its concerns that the merger may lead to higher prices or a reduction in choice or quality for consumers of certain chilled savoury pastry products.

CMA accepts undertakings in lieu from Immediate Media. On 6 January 2015, the CMA announced that it has accepted undertakings in lieu of a Phase 2 reference given by Immediate Media Bristol Limited in relation to its acquisition of certain assets of Future Publishing Limited. Immediate Media offered to divest assets in the needlecraft and genealogy print magazine segments to an up-front buyer and the CMA considered that such undertakings were acceptable. This is the first time that the CMA has accepted undertakings in lieu under the new procedures and timetable introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

CMA refers acquisition by Reckitt Benckiser of Johnson & Johnsons K-Y brand for Phase 2 investigation. On 7 January 2015, the CMA announced that it has referred the completed acquisition by Reckitt Benckiser of Johnson & Johnson’s K-Y brand for an in-depth Phase 2 investigation after rejecting Reckitt Benckiser’s proposed undertakings. The merger will create the largest supplier of personal lubricant products. The CMA is concerned that the merged entity will not face sufficient competitive constraints and that the merger may result in higher prices or a reduction in choice or quality for customers.

CMA to review undertakings in lieu offered by Motor Fuel. On 8 January 2015, the CMA announced that it has decided to consider in detail whether to accept undertakings offered by Motor Fuel Limited (MFL) in lieu of referring for a Phase 2 investigation its completed acquisition of 228 petrol stations and 226 fuel supply contracts from Murco Petroleum Limited.

Speeches & Publications

Commission publishes proposed legal texts for competition policy in TTIP. On 7 January 2015, the European Commission announced that it has published the EU proposals for legal text on various issues including competition policy to be included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the EU and the US. The textual proposals in relation to competition relate to three areas: antitrust and mergers (covering the basic legal framework, independence of competition authorities and co-operation), state-owned enterprises (seeking to prevent discrimination and providing for good corporate governance and transparency) and subsidies (to improve transparency). The texts tabled by the EU form the basis of negotiations to be held with the US.