On the 1st of July the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released for public comment draft Merger Review Process Guidelines. The Guidelines inform businesses and legal practitioners of the ACCC’s approach to informal reviews of mergers and acquisitions. These guidelines will provide businesses with an avenue to determine whether the ACCC may form an opinion that a merger would substantially lessen competition contrary to s 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
In a media release issued by the ACCC, Chairman Rod Sims stated that the guidelines incorporate some of the more recent approaches taken by the ACCC to reviewing mergers and additionally propose changes aimed at improving efficiency and transparency. The updated guidelines are set to reflect more accurately the ACCC’s current approach; the last substantive review having occurred in 2006.
One particular proposal contained in the guidelines is to move away from allocating a set period of time for all public reviews. The ACCC has instead decided to opt for a process whereby timeframes provided for reviews can be extended where it is apparent, due to the nature of the merger that a review will take longer.
The ACCC has also indicated a willingness to provide more information to merger parties during the review process. The guidelines suggest that all timelines will include a ‘provisional’ decision date which provides parties with an early indication as to the ACCC's views on the merge.