EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7871 BOMBARDIER / CDPQ / BOMBARDIER TRANSPORTATION UK (1 February 2016)
  • M.7762 ARCELORMITTAL / FINANCIAL ENTITIES / GRUPO CONDESA (1 February 2016)
  • M.7885 BP EUROPA / RUHR OEL (2 February 2016)
  • M.7901 COFRA HOLDING / BINDER GROUP (3 February 2016)
  • M.7905 HAMMERSON / ALLIANZ GROUP / DUNDRUM TOWN CENTRE (4 February 2016)
  • M.7926 GOLDMAN SACHS / NORTHGATE (4 February 2016)
  • M.7772 WESTERN DIGITAL / SANDISK (4 February 2016)

Public Procurement

European Commission makes revised proposals to open up international procurement.On 29 January 2016, the European Commission (Commission) presented an amended proposal for a Regulation on the access of third-country goods and services to the EU’s internal market for public procurement and procedures supporting negotiations on access of EU goods and services to the public procurement markets of third countries (the International Procurement Instrument). It is intended that the proposal will open access to public procurement markets around the world and address the imbalance between an open EU procurement market and the discriminatory treatment applied by some countries on EU businesses bidding for contracts in their territories.

General Court dismisses appeal by PRIMA against Commission procurement decision.On 4 February 2016, the General Court handed down its judgment on an appeal by PRIMA relating to a Commission decision to award its procurement contract to another bidder. The General Court dismissed the appeal in its entirety, noting that the Commission had not infringed its duty to provide information and that the information provided by the Commission including that PRIMA’s proposed price was higher and overall score was lower than that of the winning tenderer was sufficient. The General Court also found that the Commission had correctly applied the award criteria. The tender related to a contract for supporting the Bulgarian delegation in organising public events.

State Aid

Commission approves Hungarian investment aid for Audi. On 1 February 2016, the Commission announced that plans by Hungary to grant EUR133 million in investment aid to AUDI HUNGARIA MOTOR Ltd (Audi) to enable the company to extend an existing plant in Győr (Western Transdanubia) are in line with EU State aid rules. It is expected that Audi’s investment of EUR1.2 billion in a fully integrated production plant on its existing site will create 2,100 jobs in Western Transdanubia, a disadvantaged region of Hungary. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the positive effects of the project on regional development outweigh any distortion of competition created by the aid.

ECJ dismisses Alcoa appeal against General Court ruling upholding Commission decision requiring recovery of State aid. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has publishedan order dismissing an appeal by Alcoa Trasformazioni Srl (Alcoa) against a General Court ruling upholding two Commission decisions requiring the recovery of State aid in the form of a preferential electricity tariff that had been unlawfully granted to Aloca by the Italian government. The ECJ rejected claims that the General Court seriously distorted the evidence in its examination of the Commission’s finding of the existence of State aid, and erred in its assessment of the need to conduct an economic analysis.

General Court dismisses appeal against Commission’s finding that German tax rules for ailing companies constituted unlawful State aid. On 4 February 2016, the General Court handed down its judgment on an appeal by GFKL Financial Services AG (GFKL) against a Commission decision which found that tax advantages granted by Germany to ailing companies when there were significant changes in their shareholding were incompatible with the EU State aid rules. In 2009, GFKL was at risk of bankruptcy, at which point an investor acquired 80% of the company and was therefore allowed to carry forward its fiscal losses. However, the Commission concluded that the carry-forward provision constituted unlawful State aid. GFKL appealed the decision. The General Court dismissed the appeal in its entirety, finding that the Commission had not erred in concluding that German law favoured ailing companies over financially-sound companies, if there had been a significant change in their shareholder structure. The General Court further concluded that the Commission had satisfied its obligation to state reasons as to why it considered the measure granted a selective advantage and that the Commission had not infringed Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, nor had it infringed GFKL’s rights of legitimate expectation.

UK Cartel

CMA update on civil investigation into suspected galvanised steel water tanks cartel. On 29 January 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) updated its timetable in relation to its ongoing civil investigation (which opened in November 2012) into suspected cartel conduct in respect of the supply of galvanised steel tanks for water storage. The CMA stated that there will be a further update by the end of May 2016.

Trade

Commission publishes EU-Vietnam free trade agreement. On 1 February 2016, the Commission published the text of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Vietnam, following the conclusion of negotiations in December 2015, in line with the Commission’s transparency commitments. The Vietnamese market offers numerous opportunities for the EU’s agricultural, industrial and services exports and it is hoped that the FTA will help EU firms realise these opportunities, as well as support Vietnam’s transition towards a more competitive and more sustainable economy.

Chinese, Vietnamese shoe duties partially annulled by ECJ. On 4 February 2016, the ECJ handed down a judgment that definitive antidumping duties imposed on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese leather footwear into the EU were partially invalid. Both C & J Clark International Ltd (Clarks) and Puma requested repayment of anti-dumping duties paid in respect of the importation of the footwear before the relevant national courts. The respective national courts doubted the validity of the regulation which imposed the anti-dumping duties – this led to the ruling before the ECJ. In particular, the ECJ held that the Commission failed to deal with exporting producers’ claims that they operated under market-economy conditions and also with their requests for individual treatment.

Speeches & Publications

Speech on setting priorities in antitrust. On 1 February 2016, the Commission published a speech by Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, on competition policy and competition law enforcement priorities. In particular, Commissioner Vestager set out the key questions which are considered at the outset of potential Commission investigations. These include the importance of the case and sector in the market, the importance of the case as a potential precedent, and whether competition law and the Commission are the appropriate forum for the potential action. Furthermore, Commissioner Vestager mentioned that new legislation to help national competition authorities enforce compliance with competition law may be proposed.