Competition: Commission fines two power exchanges EUR 5.9 million in cartel settlement

The Commission has imposed fines totaling approximately EUR 5.9 million on the two leading European spot power exchanges, EPEX Spot ("EPEX") and Nord Pool Spot (“NPS”) for having agreed not to compete with one another for their spot electricity trading services in the European Economic Area (“EEA”) in violation of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). The infringement took place in the context of discussions to establish the Internal Energy Market (“IEM”), a Commission initiative aimed at fully integrating national electricity markets. When exploring a joint approach on the technical systems to be used for cross-border trade, EPEX and NPS also agreed not to compete with each other and to allocate European territories between each other. The infringement lasted for at least seven months in 2011-2012, ending when the Commission and the EFTA Surveillance Authority carried out unannounced inspections at the companies' premises. The Commission reduced the fines imposed on both companies by 10% for agreeing to settle the case with the Commission. Source: Commission Press Release 5/3/2014

Competition: Commission fines Romanian Power Exchange OPCOM for discriminating against EU electricity traders

The Commission has imposed a fine of just over EUR 1 million on S.C. OPCOM S.A. (“OPCOM”) for abusing its dominant position in the Romanian market for facilitating electricity spot trading in violation of EU competition rules. OPCOM operates the only power exchange in Romania. The Commission found that OPCOM discriminated against EU-based electricity traders from outside Romania for over five  years. Between 2008 and 2013, OPCOM required members of the spot electricity markets to have a Romanian VAT registration, refusing to accept traders that were already registered for VAT in other EU Member States. As a result, EU traders could only enter the Romanian wholesale electricity market by setting up a fixed establishment in Romania, which entailed additional costs and organizational disadvantages for EU traders compared to Romanian traders. Discrimination on grounds of nationality or place of establishment is against the basic principles of the Single Market. OPCOM's VAT registration requirement created an artificial barrier to market entry for EU traders and in turn reduced liquidity on the wholesale electricity market. Furthermore, the Commission held OPCOM's parent company CNTEE Transelectrica S.A. (“Transelectrica”) liable for the infringement. Source: Commission Press Release 5/3/2014

Merger control: Commission opens an in-depth investigation into acquisition by Huntsman of titanium dioxide assets of Rockwood

The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition by Huntsman of a number of equity interests held by Rockwood. Both companies are established in the US. Huntsman, is active internationally in the chemicals sector and produces a wide range of specialty and intermediate chemicals, including titanium dioxide. Rockwood is also active worldwide in the chemicals sector, among others in the markets for titanium dioxide and functional additives under the name “Sachtleben”. The business of Rockwood that Huntsman plans to acquire includes the production of titanium dioxide and functional additives. The Commission’s preliminary investigation revealed that the proposed transaction would raise competition concerns in the market for sulphate-based titanium dioxide in the European Economic Area (“EEA”), and more particularly in applications using sulphate-based titanium dioxide where Huntsman and Sachtleben are the two leading suppliers worldwide and compete closely.  Titanium dioxide is a chemical used for whitening dishes, paper, bathtubs, clothing, toothpaste, cream, cookies, PVC window frames, etc. The total size of the EEA titanium dioxide market is around EUR 3 billion. The Commission has concerns that the remaining competitors may not be able to exert

sufficiently strong competitive constraints on the merged entity in specialty markets using sulphate-based titanium dioxide. According to the Commission, the removal of the competitive constraint may lead to  less choice for customers and potentially to higher prices for the products concerned. Next, the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed or not. The Commission has 90 working days, until 22 July 2014, to take a decision. Source: Commission Press Release 5/3/2014

Merger Control (Sweden): The Swedish Competition Authority opens an in-depth investigation into acquisition of Zitius Service Delivery and Quadracom Networks by TeliaSonera

The Swedish Competition Authority (“SCA”) has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition by TeliaSonera AB (“TeliaSonera”) of Zitius Service Delivery Aktiebolag (“Zitius”) and Quadracom Networks AB (“Quadracom”). TeliaSonera owns and operates a nationwide copper-based network, parts of the fiber-based networks and is one of the largest providers of broadband services to customers in Sweden. Zitius is a communications operator managing and servicing fiber-based networks and Quadracom is a provider of various network services. The SCA’s preliminary investigation revealed that due to the horizontal overlaps in the parties businesses the proposed transaction raises competition concerns in the markets for communications operations and fiber-networks due to eliminating a significant competitive pressure on the market. Moreover, the SCA noted, the market investigation had raised concerns regarding the effects of TeliaSonera’s strengthened position on the market for network operation services on possible market entry of service providers. The SCA has until 10 June 2014 to decide whether to approve the transaction or initiate proceedings before the District Court. Source: Swedish Competition Authority Press Release 10/03/2014

In addition, kindly note the following merger control decisions by the Commission which are published on the website of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition:

  • Commission clears acquisition of Ensemble immobilier Sain-Denis by Predica and AVIVA France
  • Commission clears acquisition of Hospitales Concesion adosby LBEIP(Holdco) and Sacyr Concesiones
  • Commission clears acquisition of Esso's European Fuel Card Business by WEX and Radius