In autumn 2008, the Competition Council granted a derogation from the suspension obligation that applies to mergers that are notifiable in Belgium. This derogation possibility is foreseen by the Belgian Competition Act but had not been previously applied.
The Belgian State obtained this derogation when it acquired (through the Federal Participation and Investment Company) an initial stake in Fortis in September 2008 and also when it increased this stake in October 2008.
In its decisions, the Council stated that the request for derogation from the suspension obligation was considered without taking a view on the question whether or not the transaction had to be notified. However, the Council added that, even if notifiable, a summary assessment of the merits of the case had demonstrated that the acquisitions did not appear to give rise to a significant impediment to effective competition on the Belgian market.
The Council accepted that the implementation of the acquisition was urgent as this was necessary to restore the confidence in Fortis and thus avoid a significant crisis within the Belgian financial system. On that basis, the Council granted a derogation from the suspension obligation.