Phase I Mergers
- M.8150 DANONE / THE WHITEWAVE FOODS COMPANY (14 December 2016)
- M.8216 ALLIANZ / DALMORE / BEL (14 December 2016)
- M.8229 HAMMERSON / IRISH LIFE / ILAC SHOPPING CENTRE (14 December 2016)
- M.8247 AURELIUS EQUITY OPPORTUNITIES / OFFICE DEPOT (NETHERLANDS) (14 December 2016)
- M.8265 CARLYLE / KAP (14 December 2016)
- M.8272 CVC / CINVEN / NEWDAY (14 December 2016)
- M.8285 BAIN CAPITAL INVESTORS / MSX INTERNATIONAL (14 December 2016)
- M.8299 DE AGOSTINI LIBRI / EDITORIAL PLANETA / DEA PLANETA LIBRI JV (14 December 2016)
- M.8300 HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE SERVICES / COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION (12 December 2016)
Commission confirms Insurance Block Exemption will not be renewed. On 13 December 2016, the European Commission (Commission) announced that Regulation 267/2010 (IBER) will be allowed to expire on 31 March 2017. The IBER allows (re)insurers to benefit from an exemption to the application of competition law rules to (i) jointly compile and distribute information needed for costs calculations and the construction of mortality tables (but not share the calculations or mortality tables themselves); and, (ii) to the joint insurance and/or reinsurance of risks in pools.The Commission’s decision to allow the IBER to lapse follows a report issued by the Commission on 17 March 2016, in which the Commission stated their preliminary view is that the block exemptions are no longer needed for the insurance sector due to its Guidance on Horizontal Co-operation, which came into force in December 2010 and provides the relevant guidance on information exchange.However, the Commission has warned that the expiry of the IBER does not mean that the above forms of co-operation become unlawful under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Rather, insurers, like all the other companies doing business within the European Union, will need to assess their co-operation in the market context to see whether it is in line with competition rules. As regards to the co-(re)insurance pools, the Commission considered the IBER to be of limited use and relevance. The Commission’s previous report also found that very few sector specific block exemptions remain in force (insurance, maritime linear shipping and motor vehicle distribution). The Commission, however, has confirmed that it “will continue to monitor developments in the market to evaluate how insurers adapt to the change”.
Commission approves Danish support for energy intensive users. On 12 December 2016, the Commission approved an extension of State aid from Denmark to partially compensate more energy intensive users for the levy to support renewable energy. At present, the Danish government provides public support through contributions levied on electricity consumption through a Danish scheme which was approved by the Commission in October 2015. The scheme concerns energy-intensive users in sectors that are particularly energy-intensive and/or exposed to international competition. In order to preserve the global competitiveness of certain sectors, the Commission has certain Guidelines in place to allow Member States to grant reductions from such contributions. As such, the Commission’s latest approval allows an extension to the scope of reductions under the existing scheme to include energy-intensive users in several additional manufacturing sectors and four horticulture sectors. All other conditions of the original scheme remain unchanged and will apply to the new beneficiaries, in particular that energy intensive users will be compensated up to a maximum of 85% of their contribution to the financing of renewable energy support. The Commission's assessment showed that the “measure will contribute to the competitiveness of these users without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market” and that the “reductions remain in line with the Guidelines.”
Commission clears INVEST, a German risk capital scheme. On 12 December 2016, the Commission announced it has approved German State aid into plans to facilitate small, young, innovative companies' access to finance. The scheme offers incentives to individuals, named “business angels” to buy shares in newly created qualifying companies, as long as the investor also holds the shares for a minimum of three years. The Commission found that, in line with its 2014 Guidelines, the €46 million scheme which will run from 2017 to 2020, will successfully provide incentives for investments in companies that are not readily available in the market. The Commission noted the German State aid will improve the small, young, innovative companies' access to finance and so contribute to strengthening innovation and competitiveness. The Commission also accepted the potential negative effects on competition and trade are very limited. This new scheme replaces a previous German aid scheme, which the Commission approved in 2013.
Commission approves French support for electricity generation from renewable energy. On 12 December 2016, the Commission announced that it has granted approval under the State aid rules for four French State aid schemes for renewable energy generation. The schemes have an estimated budget of €7,681 million until 2042, and will be financed by the earmarked “Energy Transition” account, which was funded in 2016 by a domestic tax on electricity consumption. From 1 January 2017, the schemes will be financed by a share of the domestic tax on coal and brown coal and a share of the proceeds of the domestic tax on the consumption of petroleum and similar products. The State aid benefits installations using energy extracted from geothermal deposits, installations of less than 500 kW using biogas produced by methanisation, hydraulic installations of less than 1 MW and wind farms that submitted an application for State aid in 2016. In order to address any potential discrimination against renewable energy from abroad, France has committed to invest €49 million in interconnection projects. This amount corresponds to the total amount of the electricity tax imposed on estimated imports of renewable energy into the French Republic in 2016, and used to finance support for renewable energy in France. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, commented: “The future of European economic growth will depend on our ability to make progress towards clean energy. In this context, I am pleased to validate four French initiatives in favor of green energies. These measures encourage investment in non-polluting production capacities while avoiding undue burdens on the end consumer. This is a very important balance for Europe in the pursuit of our environmental objectives.” The State aid will assist France in meeting its 2020 renewable targets, while limiting distortions of competition resulting from the state support. The Commission has concluded that these measures will “boost the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources” and contribute to EU objectives in the fields of energy and climate without unduly distorting competition.
State Aid approved for four highly-efficient cogeneration plants in Germany. On 14 December 2016, the Commission approved Germany’s plans to provide State aid to four cogeneration plants feeding Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Munich's district heating networks. These State support schemes are granted under Germany's 2016 Combined Heat and Generation Act, which the Commission approved in October 2016. However individual measures that exceed the capacity threshold of 300 Megawatts (as set in the Commission’s 2014 Guidelines) need to be notified to the Commission for scrutiny. The Commission found these measures will “help to reduce the use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions” and “help Germany achieve its objective to increase the net electricity production from CHP installations to 120 Terawatt (TWh) hours/year by 2025”. Germany will support combined heat generation by providing premiums to plants on top of the market price of cogenerated electricity fed into the public grid, and limited to the amount of full load hours. The Commission found the market premiums allow the plants to operate at times where they would not have been sufficiently profitable without the premium, thereby increasing their operating hours and the benefit in terms of CO2 emission savings and primary energy savings. Moreover, the Commission preferred the grant of a market premium instead of fixed feed-in tariffs, as they found this promotes the plants' integration into the energy market and ensures that they are not overcompensated, thus limiting the distortion of competition triggered by the State aid. Since the plants only receive the fixed premium during limited operating hours, they have an incentive to operate when the market price is higher. In line with the Guidelines, the plants will not receive any support when electricity prices are negative, i.e. when supply exceeds demand.
Ecuador trade agreement receives the consent of the European Parliament. On 14 December 2016, the European Parliament gave its consent for Ecuador to join the EU trade agreement with Colombia and Peru. “This agreement is crucial for Ecuador’s economy and it can pave the way for more progressive social and environmental policies. We will continuously evaluate the effect of the deal on the people of the country and demand appropriate changes, if necessary”, said rapporteur Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE) before the vote. Members of the European Parliament approved the deal by 544 votes to 114, with 44 abstentions. The Commission, the Member States, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru signed the protocol of accession of Ecuador on 11 November 2016, which enabled Ecuador to join the Commission’s free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru. The Commission commented that “the agreement eliminates high tariffs and tackles technical barriers to trade. It also liberalises service markets, protects EU geographical indicators and opens up public procurement markets. It includes commitments on the enforcement of labour and environmental standards, as well as rapid and effective dispute settlement procedures”. The trade agreement will provide all parties with new market access opportunities; the Commission and its Member States will gain an additional market for its automobiles, alcoholic beverages and dairy products, and Ecuador will be able to trade their main exports with the other parties, being their fisheries, banana, cut flowers, and cacao. Ecuador will access the agreement based on the principle of regional integration with the Andean Community. The agreement will also remain open for signature by Bolivia, the other member of the Andean Community. All parties hope to begin provisional application on 1 January 2017.
Commission issues Notice that duties on Chinese lever-arch mechanisms will expire. On 14 December 2016, the Commission released a Notice in the Official Journal, which announced the impending expiry of dumping duties on Chinese lever-arch mechanisms. European producers can request a review of the measures, however this request must contain sufficient evidence that the expiry of the measures would be likely to result “in a continuation or recurrence of dumping and injury”. The request for review must be sent three months before the duties expire on 5 September 2017.