By order of the Commercial Court of Vienna from 30.11.2015, bankruptcy proceedings were opened against the assets of the food chain Zielpunkt GmbH. With liabilities amounting to approximately 237 million euros, the Zielpunkt insolvency is the biggest of 2015. Zielpunkt has 229 branches in total in Austria and employs 2708 employees. The insolvency administrator is trying to sell as many branches as possible. The acquisition of Zielpunkt branches by competitors, as by the two biggest grocers REWE and Spar, however, raises competition law concerns due to the large market share.
In Germany it is possible to lodge an application for ministerial approval. For “macroeconomic reasons” the Minister of Economic Affairs may release a merger which has been prohibited by the Federal Cartel Office. Such a request was made in April 2015 from the grocery chains Edeka / Tengelmann.
In Austria the instrument of ministerial approval does not exist. Thus it is currently being lobbied within the relevant ministries for a relaxation of the regulations and whether it would be reasonable to establish a political authority over the cartel jurisdiction in Austria.
It is argued that the preservation of jobs must be more important than the prevention of a further concentration in the grocery trade.
It is clear that the current regulations and policies are beneficial to the consumer. If the market concentration increases, then prices also rise, the consumer has fewer choices and the few already strong grocery chains will be strengthened in its position even further.