EU Competition

Commission publishes summary of car alternators and starters cartel decision. On 4 March 2016, the Commission published a summary of its decision against Japanese car parts manufacturers, Denso, Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi, in which it imposed fines totalling EUR 137,789,000 against the companies for their participation in an alternators and starters cartel. Contacts between the parties took place outside the EEA, but the Commission found that the companies’ actions (including sharing price strategy information and coordinating responses to tenders) affected the European market. Denso received immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel, avoiding a fine in excess of €157 million.

Commission approves McKesson acquisition of UDG Healthcare in the EEA but refers UK element to the CMA for approval. On 4 March 2016, the Commission announced that it would be partially referring the acquisition by McKesson (a US distributor of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment), of Irish company, UDG Healthcare’s UK and Irish wholesale pharmaceuticals business. The CMA is concerned that the acquisition will specifically threaten competition in the UK.

Commission publishes decision to refer Arriva Rail North’s sole control of northern rail passenger franchise to the CMA. On 8 March 2016, the Commission published its decision to refer Arriva Rail North Limited’s sole control of the northern rail passenger franchise (a passenger rail franchise providing passenger rail services across North West England, East Midlands, Yorkshire, North East England and Cumbria) to the CMA. Together, the passenger transportation services are believed to have a combined market share of between 90 and 100 per cent on certain bus and rail routes.

Société Générale withdraws appeal against Commission’s decision on Euro interest rates derivatives cartel. On 2 March 2016, the General Court approved the withdrawal of Société Générale’s appeal of the Commission’s decision to fine it for its participation in a Euro interest rates derivatives cartel. Société Générale had used the cartel settlement procedure, but had brought an appeal against the settlement decision on the basis that the methodology adopted by the Commission for calculating sales values was inaccurate. Société Générale remains the only company to have appealed a settlement decision.

ECJ hands down judgment on Teva Pharmaceuticals appeal. On 3 March 2016, the ECJ handed down its judgment on the refusal to grant marketing authorisation for the generic version of the orphan medicinal product ‘imatinib mesylate’. Teva Pharmaceuticals (Teva) sought to have the judgment of the General Court (which dismissed their action for annulment of the decision of the European Medicines Agency (EMA)) set aside. The ECJ ultimately upheld the decision of the EMA which rejected Teva’s application to place the generic version of the orphan medicinal product imatinib mesylate on the market, in so far as it concerned the “therapeutic indications of the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia”.

Danish real-estate brokers agree to DKK 12 million (USD 1.76 million) settlement for boycotting competitor’s website. On 7 March 2016, the Danish competition authority issued a press release confirming that a DKK 12 million settlement had been agreed with five real-estate agencies in connection with their boycott of a competitor’s website. The parties had been found to have coordinated to prevent Boliga.dk gaining access to photos of properties for sale on the internet, in order to eliminate it as competitor and increase internet traffic to their own website, Boligsiden.dk, being the only remaining property search portal in Denmark.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7573 DMK / DOC KAAS (3 March 2016)
  • M.7841 AVRIL POLE ANIMAL / TÖNNIES INTERNATIONAL HOLDING / JV (3 March 2016)
  • M.7903 LÖWEN ENTERTAINMENT / SAFARI HOLDING / SCHMIDT GRUPPE SERVICE / GESELLSCHAFT FÜR SPIELERSCHUTZ UND PRÄVENTION (4 March 2016)
  • M.7909 LONE STAR FUND IX / N&W GLOBAL VENDING (4 March 2016)
  • M.7922 NORDIC CAPITAL / GREENDELI INVESTMENT HOLDING (2 March 2016)
  • M.7923 LKQ CORPORATION / RHIAG GROUP (8 March 2016)
  • M.7945 UTC / RIELLO GROUP (2 March 2016)

State Aid

Commission approves construction of new gas pipeline. On 3 March 2016, the Commission issued a press release confirming that it had approved an agreement between Greece and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will increase the security of energy supply for southeastern Europe. The Host Government Agreement, governing the relationship between the parties, provides TAP with preferential tax treatment, conferring an economic advantage over its competitors and therefore, classifying it as state aid under EU rules. The Commission concluded that the overall benefits from increased energy supply and competition outweighed any potential threats to competition from the state aid.

General Court upholds Commission decision on Simet’s breach of state aid rules. On 3 March 2016, the European General Court dismissed an appeal brought by Simet SpA (Simet) against the Commission’s decision that Simet was not entitled to public service compensation as it would amount to an infringement of the EU state aid rules. Simet operated a number of scheduled bus routes in Italy based on state-granted concessions and had requested retroactive public service compensation.

ECJ dismisses Greek appeal on nature of agricultural payments. On 8 March 2016, the ECJ handed down its judgment in which it dismissed an appeal by the Greek Agricultural Insurance Organisation (ELGA) against the Commission’s decision that compensation payments made to certain producers of agricultural products constituted state aid. Because the payments conferred an unfair advantage on the beneficiaries and the ELGA had not presented any evidence of exceptional circumstances which would allow the ECJ to depart from the Temporary Community Framework, the ECJ upheld the Commission’s decision.

EU Trade

European Investment Bank extends existing financing to support Greek economy. On 8 March the European Investment Bank (EIB) released a statement confirming that it has decided to extend its existing EUR 500 million trade and export finance facility for Greece. The initiative is intended to increase the competitiveness of Greek companies in domestic and overseas markets. In addition, the EIB will be guaranteeing letters of credit and other trade instruments issued by Greek banks in order to provide added comfort to overseas customers that financial commitments will be honoured.

Green Deal for a North Sea Resources Roundabout (NSSR). On 3 March 2016 it was announced that representatives from the Netherlands, France, Flanders, the United Kingdom, the private sector and environmental organisations had signed an international trade deal on raw materials derived from waste. It is hoped that the deal will incentivise those companies leading in sustainability to continue their innovation in this area.

Public Procurement

Commission sets out how public procurement legislation reforms will benefit small and medium-sized enterprises. On 8 March 2016 the Commission published an article setting out the new opportunities for medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) under public procurement legislation reforms. Under the reforms contracting authorities will be encouraged to divide contracts into lots, making tenders more accessible to SMEs, and any turnover thresholds required to be met in order to qualify for the tendering process will be limited, allowing start-ups to participate.

UK Competition

Man charged with criminal cartel offence following CMA investigation. On 7 March 2016, the Commission issued a press release confirming that a man has been charged under section 188 Enterprise Act 2002 with dishonestly agreeing with others to divide supply, fix prices and divide customers between 2006 and 2013 in connection with the arrangements between Stanton Bonna (UK) Ltd., FP McCann Ltd., CPM Group Ltd. and Milton pipes Ltd. for the supply of precast concrete drainage products. The offence carries a sentence of up to five year’s imprisonment and/or a fine.

CMA opens new pharmaceutical sector investigation. On 8 March 2016, the CMA announced that it had opened an investigation into anti-competitive practices in the pharmaceutical section, pursuant to Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 102 of the TFEU. The CMA have yet to confirm any further details on the subject(s) of the investigation.

CMA extends timetable for certain reviews as part of its retail banking market investigation. On 7 March 2016, the CMA announced that it has extended its timetable for reviewing the Northern Ireland Personal Current Account Order 2008. Their review concerns certain changes that may result from the implementation of the Current Account Switch Service. The CMA also announced that it is extending its review of the behavioural undertakings provided by nine banks supplying services to SMEs.

CMA extends timetable for reviewing remitted provisions of Private Healthcare Market Investigation report. On 7 March 2016 the CMA updated its administrative table to extend its time for reviewing those provisions in its final report on its Private Healthcare Market Investigation that were remitted by the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The final report on the remitted issues and any decision on remedies is expected to be published in June 2016.

Speeches & Publications

Commission announces new Deputy Director General for Mergers. On 2 March 2016, the Commission issued a press release announcing that it had appointed Carles Esteva Mosso as the new Deputy Director General for Mergers in DG Competition. The appointment will be effective as of 16 March 2016.

Commission publishes summary report on EU telecoms regulations. On 3 March 2016, the Commission published a summary report following its review of current telecoms regulations. Areas for improvement highlighted, included ensuring there was more flexible access to spectrum in the future and updating regulations to support market developments.

Commission publishes planned initiatives for 2016/2017. On 7 March 2016, the Commission published its List of Planned Commission Initiatives for 2016 and 2017, which includes amending the Block Exemption Regulation with respect to airports and ports infrastructure.