EU Competition

Commission publishes Competition Policy Report. On 15 June 2016, the European Commission (Commission) published its Report on Competition Policy 2015 (the Report), in which it sets out the policy developments and enforcement actions during 2015. The Report among other things, refers to the new State aid modernisation initiative, which has enabled the UK to conduct ground-breaking research into a new space launcher; and recent regulations in the media and telecoms sectors.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7970 AIR LIQUIDE / OMZ / JV (14 June 2016)
  • M.7972 ITW / EF&C (14 June 2016)

State Aid

Commission assesses plans to grant State aid to two German investment projects under new provisions of the 2014 EU regional aid rules. On 13 June 2016, the Commission announced that it had come to a decision on two German investment projects following its application of the new provisions of the Regional Aid Guidelines 2014-2020 (the Guidelines). The first decision was in relation to EUR 33 million of investment aid received by German paper and plasterboard manufacturer, Hamburger Rieger GmbH, which it found to be compliant with the Guidelines, as “it furthers regional development without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market”. The second decision concerned the Commission opening an in-depth investigation into EUR 4 million State aid provided to Swiss-based polymer business, REHAU AG+Co, in which Guideline provisions requiring certain projects to be “genuinely innovative” were considered.

UK Competition

CMA cancels investigation into Clariant’s acquisition of Kilfrost’s de-/anti-icing business. On 13 June 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had cancelled its investigation into Clariant AG’s acquisition of Kilfrost Group plc’s European aircraft and rail de-/anti-icing fluid businesses, following the parties’ decision to no longer progress the transaction. The CMA had previously published its provisional findings indicating that it might block the transaction.

CMA publishes full text of its decision on Safetykleen UK’s acquisition of Pure Solve UK. On 13 June 2016, the CMA published the full text of its decision in respect of Safetykleen UK Ltd.’s acquisition of Pure Solve UK Limited, following the parties’ decision to no longer progress the transaction. The CMA had originally announced that it would refer the acquisition to a Phase II investigation unless acceptable undertakings in lieu of reference were offered.

CMA publishes full text of its decision on Arriva’s acquisition of Northern Rail Franchise. On 14 June 2016, the CMA published the full text of its decision to refer Arriva Rail North Limited’s (Arriva) acquisition of the Northern Rail Franchise (Northern Rail) to a Phase II investigation. The CMA had indicated that it would consider acceptable undertakings in lieu of a reference, but so far none have been forthcoming. During the Phase I investigation, Arriva was found to be running existing train and bus operations in the same area as Northern Rail. The CMA has also published an Issues Statement in which it sets out the factors that will be assessed as part of its Phase II investigation.

CMA considering undertakings offered in Hain Frozen Food’s acquisition of Orchard House. On 14 June 2016, the CMA published a notice to consider undertakings offered by Hain Frozen Foods UK Limited (Hain) in respect of its acquisition of Orchard House Foods Limited in lieu of a Phase II investigation. In particular, Hain has offered to divest its UK own-label freshly squeezed fruit juice business, including manufacturing assets, key staff, know-how and customer contracts, as a going concern (Divestment Business). Hain has also offered to enter into a purchase agreement for the Divestment Business, with a buyer approved by the CMA, before the CMA finally accepts the proposed undertakings.

Energy price comparison websites investigation transferred to CMA. On 14 June 2016, Ofgem announced that it had transferred its investigation into suspected anti-competitive agreements between websites offering energy tariff comparisons in relation to paid online search advertising to the CMA. In particular, the focus is on whether two or more third party intermediaries are, or at some point since at least 2010, have been parties to an agreement or concerted practice relating to bidding and/or negative matching for search advertising, including any agreements not to compete in relation to particular search terms used for the purposes of online search advertising. The CMA will now investigate the suspected infringements under Chapter I Competition Act and Article 101 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), with a decision expected to be made in August 2016.

CMA reviews twelve ongoingmerger remedies. On 14 June 2016, the CMA published its decision to review a number of merger remedies which have been ongoing for a period of 10 years or more. The reviews concern the following mergers: Allied Domecq plc / Carlsberg A/S (1992); Arriva plc / Lutonian Buses (2000); Charter Consolidated plc / Anderson Strathclyde plc (1982); Hartley Industrial Trust Ltd / Alan J Lewis and Jarmain and Son Ltd (1992); Hoverspeed UK Ltd / Hoverlloyd Ltd (1981); Inntrepreneur Estates / Scottish Courage (1995); National Express Group plc / Prism Rail plc (2001); Nutricia Holdings Ltd / Valio International UK Ltd (1997); Robert Wiseman Dairies plc / Scottish Pride Holdings plc (1997); Serco Group Ltd (Nimbus) / National Air Traffic Services (2001); and Thomas Cook Group Ltd / Interpayment Services Ltd (1996). The reviews form part of the CMA’s commitments under its 2015/2016 Annual Plan, which aims to reduce the burden on businesses by removing legacy remedies that are no longer necessary.

Speeches & Publications

Commission publishes June monthly infringements decisions package. On 16 June 2016, the Commission published its “June infringements’ package: key decisions”. The package sets out the key decisions taken by the Commission (including two letters of formal notice, 11 reasoned opinions, and five referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union) and includes the Commission’s request that Cyprus and Ireland bring their legislation on financial reporting in line with EU law.