EU – Phase I merger notifications published in the Official Journal

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State Aid

The European Commission has approved a temporary increase of the guarantee for a portfolio of securities of German Landesbank WestLB.

UK Competition

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has published the transcript of a case management conference in the appeal brought by Cable & Wireless UK against the decision by the Office of Communications in relation to the leased line charge control.

Competition EU Member States

Slovakia: The Antimonopoly Office has reduced the fines against makers of gasisolated switchgears for alleged cartel activity.

Spain: The Competition Authority is investigating several of the country’s largest electricity providers.

Energy

The European Commission has cleared the acquisition of Pražská teplárenská, a.s of the Czech Republic by Czech company International Power Opatovice, a.s., EnBW AG of Germany and the City of Prague.

The European Commission has imposed fines totalling € 67 644 000 on seven companies (ABB, AREVA T&D, ALSTOM, Fuji Electrics, Hitachi and Toshiba) for violating the EC Treaty’s prohibition on cartels and restrictive business practices. Siemens was not fined, because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.

The Commission has published a summary and the main content of the commitments offered in the Swedish Interconnectors case. The European Commission is inviting comments from interested parties on the commitments offered by Svenska Kraftnät (“SvK”), the Swedish transmission system operator, following the Commission’s concerns that SvK might have breached EC Treaty antitrust rules on the abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82). The Commission’s concerns relate to the Swedish electricity transmission market, and in particular that SvK is limiting the amount of export transmission capacity available on electricity interconnectors situated along Sweden’s borders, with the objective of relieving internal congestion on its network.

Communications/IT/Media

The European Commission will on 9 October 2009 formally invite comments from consumers, software companies, computer manufacturers and other interested parties on an improved proposal by Microsoft to give present and future users of the Windows PC operating system a greater choice of web browsers. The commitments have been offered by Microsoft after the Commission expressed specific concerns that Microsoft may have infringed EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82) by tying its web browser (Internet Explorer) to its client PC operating system Windows, and are an improved version of the proposals made by Microsoft in July 2009.

Pharmaceuticals

The European Commission confirmed that on 6 October Commission officials started surprise inspections at the premises of certain companies active in the pharmaceutical industry. Sanofi-Aventis, the Paris-based pharmaceutical group, Israel’s Teva, the world’s largest generic drugs producer, and Novartis of Switzerland have all been raided for suspected breaches of competition rules believed to have occurred in France. Click here for further information.

The European Court of Justice confirmed a ruling by the Court of First Instance that the European Commission had failed to consider pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline’s evidence properly and ruled that the Commission has to reconsider its decision that Glaxo’s parallel pricing policy in Spain is not exempt from competition rules.

Insurance

The European Commission is inviting comments by 30 November 2009 on its revised draft Block Exemption Regulation for the insurance sector. The current insurance Block Exemption Regulation, which will expire on 31 March 2010, exempts certain agreements between insurance companies from the EC Treaty’s ban on restrictive business practices (Article 81). Agreements currently covered by the Block Exemption Regulation include the establishment of non-binding standard policy conditions, the exchange of statistical information for the calculation of risks, the creation and operation of insurance pools as well as agreements on security devices. The revised draft Block Exemption Regulation proposes to renew two of the four categories of agreements currently exempted by the Block Exemption Regulation, namely information exchange and insurance pools, with certain amendments.