Antitrust

ECJ sets aside General Court judgments in Greek lignite appeals. On 17 July 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) handed down its judgments (Case C-553/12 P and Case C-554/12 P) in appeals by the Commission against General Court judgments annulling the Commission’s original decision that Greece infringed Article 106(1), in conjunction with Article 102, by maintaining the quasi-exclusive rights for access to lignite granted to the state-owned electricity company, Dimosia Epikhirisi Ilektrismou Public Power Corporation (DEI), and annulling the consequent commitments accepted by Greece. The ECJ found that the General Court erred in holding that the Commission was required to identify and establish the conduct constituting abuse of a dominant position to which the State measure in question had led, or could have led, to DEI. Therefore, the ECJ concluded that the General Court’s judgment must be set aside.

Cartels

General Court reduces fines on three participants in paraffin wax cartel.  On 11 July 2014, the General Court handed down judgments (Case T-540/08Case T-541/08, and Case T-543/08) on appeals by Sasol, Esso, and ExxonMobil and RWE against the Commission decision finding a cartel in the EEA paraffin wax market and the German slack wax market. In each case, the General Court has reduced the fines imposed.

OECD paper on ex officio cartel investigations and the use of screens to detect cartels.  On 14 July 2014, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a paper summarising a policy roundtable discussion on ex officio cartel investigations and the use of screens to detect cartels. The report observes that while amnesty/leniency programmes continue to be the most effective cartel detection measure, overreliance or exclusive reliance on such programmes may undermine their effectiveness. A combination of tools that could include both proactive and reactive detection measures is considered most effective. The roundtable examined the use of structural and behavioural screens, noting their advantages and limitations. It concluded that, irrespective of the screening tools used, competition authorities should not rely exclusively on one instrument but should follow a holistic approach to cartel detection.

EU Mergers

Phase I Clearance

  • M.7125 – Foster Wheeler AG / AMEC plc
  • M.7169 – Kion Group AG / Weichai Power Co. Ltd.
  • M.7181 – Bank Gospodarki Zywnosciowej S.A. / BNP Paribas Fortis S.A.
  • M.7190 – Bekaert / Maccaferri
  • M.7216 – Argos Group Holding / Reggeborgh Invest B.V.
  • M.7242 – Cargill, Inc. / Copersucar S.A.
  • M.7255 – Flint Group GmbH / The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. / Koch Industries, Inc.
  • M.7267 – Groupe Steria SCA / Sopra Group S.A.
  • M.7271 – Russian Machines RM / Fritzmeier Auslandsholding GmbH & Co. KG
  • M.7279 – Endemol Holding BV / Apollo Management L.P.  
  • M.7286 – Deoleo, S.A. / CVC Capital Partners SICAV-FIS, S.A.

State Aid

Commission approves amendments to Bavarian broadband support scheme. On 11 July 2014, the Commission announced that it has decided to approve amendments to a scheme to support the deployment of next generation access broadband networks in underserved areas of Bavaria (MEX/14/0711). This scheme was initially approved by the Commission in November 2012 (IP/12/1240). The Commission’s analysis has shown that the amended scheme is in line with Broadband Guidelines adopted in December 2012.

Commission approves fifth prolongation of Irish credit union resolution scheme. On 17 July 2014, the Commission announced that it has decided to approve the prolongation, until 31 December 2014, of the Irish credit union resolution scheme (MEX/14/0717). The Commission initially approved the scheme in December 2011, and it has been prolonged on three occasions previously (IP/11/1574). The Commission concluded that the prolongation of the scheme is in line with its current guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis.

UK Antitrust

CMA announces charges against two further individuals in criminal cartel investigation into the supply of galvanised steel tanks for water storage. On 11 July 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that two more individuals have been charged with breach of the criminal cartel offence in section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002 as part of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into cartel activity in relation to the supply of galvanised steel tanks for water storage.

CMA opens new Competition Act investigation into conduct in the healthcare sector.On 17 July 2014, the CMA opened a new investigation into a suspected breach of competition law in the healthcare sector. The investigation is under Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 101. The CMA’s administrative timetable estimates that it will decide in December 2014 whether to proceed with or close the investigation.

UK Mergers

CMA provisionally approves Omnicell / Surgichem merger. On 11 July 2014, the CMA announced its provisional findings on its Phase 2 investigation into the anticipated acquisition by Omnicell, Inc. / MTS Medication Technologies, Inc. of SurgiChem Limited. The CMA has provisionally concluded that the merger will not lead to a substantial lessening of competition. Although the merger may lead to a reduction in competitive rivalry for certain customers for whom the parties are close competitors, there are existing players in the market that will offer significant constraints on the merged entity. In addition, the potential for entry and expansion indicates that the parties could be constrained further within a reasonable period.