Notification and clearance timetable

Filing formalities

What are the deadlines for filing? Are there sanctions for not filing and are they applied in practice?

Concentrations falling within the thresholds must be notified to the DCCA after the conclusion of the agreement, the announcement of the public bid, or the acquisition of a controlling interest; and in any event before implementation.

Fines may be imposed for failure to notify and unlawful implementation. To date, three fines in the range of 4 million to 6 million kroner have been imposed on companies that had failed to notify a merger to the DCCA.

Which parties are responsible for filing and are filing fees required?

In principle, all the parties involved in a concentration are responsible for filing. In practice, however, the filing of acquisitions is often made by the acquiring party. The fee amounts to 50,000 kroner for simplified notifications and 0.015 per cent of the parties’ turnover for non-simplified notifications. However, the filing fee is capped at a maximum of 1.5 million kroner.

What are the waiting periods and does implementation of the transaction have to be suspended prior to clearance?

A concentration that is notifiable to the DCCA must not be put into effect before it has been approved by the DCCA or the Competition Council’s time limits have expired.

This creates waiting periods of 25 working days (Phase I) or additionally 90 working days (Phase II) after the expiry of the first waiting period. A Phase I review can be extended by 10 working days if the undertakings propose new or revised commitments. A Phase II review can be extended by 20 working days in three scenarios:

  • if the undertakings propose new or revised commitments late in the process (ie, if 70 working days or more have passed from the decision to initiate Phase II);
  • at the request by the parties; or
  • with the parties’ consent.

Hence, the maximum extension in Phase II is 2 × 20 working days (ie, if 70 working days or more have passed from the decision to initiate Phase II). The DCCA must declare whether a notification is complete within 10 working days. In practice, the DCCA may have several additional questions and sometimes even begin negotiations with the parties on possible commitments with the effect that the deadlines are not triggered.

There are two exceptions to this rule: first, a (conditional) derogation may be granted by the DCCA; second, an exception applies in respect of public bids that have been notified, provided that the acquirer does not exercise the voting rights attached to the securities in question or does so only to maintain the full value of those investments and on the basis of a derogation granted by the DCCA.

Pre-clearance closing

What are the possible sanctions involved in closing or integrating the activities of the merging businesses before clearance and are they applied in practice?

Fines may be imposed for unlawful implementation of a concentration prior to clearance. However, since the introduction of merger control in Denmark in 2000, the Competition Authority has only once used its powers to ask the Public Prosecutor’s Office to pursue matters of failure to notify. (We are aware of at least one instance where the parties to a ‘foreign-to-foreign’ transaction notified considerably later than the one-week deadline, which applied at the time.)

Generally, the size of any fine will depend on factors such as the size and turnover of the undertakings concerned, the duration of the violation and whether the merger has impeded effective competition in the relevant market. Aggravating and mitigating circumstances may also be taken into account. However, the fine imposed can amount to up to 10 per cent of the undertaking’s revenue. Substantive violations of the competition rules may trigger fines according to the following base amounts: up to 4 million kroner for minor violations, 4 million to 20 million kroner for serious violations, and more than 20 million kroner for very serious violations. However, fines for procedural infringements are likely to be significantly lower than these base amounts, probably in the magnitude of some 10,000 to 500,000 kroner.

Where clearance is subsequently denied or made conditional, the transaction will have to be annulled or otherwise reopened and modified.

Are sanctions applied in cases involving closing before clearance in foreign-to-foreign mergers?

In principle, the same sanctions are applicable to notifiable foreign-to-foreign mergers as to other notifiable mergers. However, the administrative practice and case law hold no examples of sanctions for filing late in foreign-to-foreign merger cases.

What solutions might be acceptable to permit closing before clearance in a foreign-to-foreign merger?

Solutions such as ‘ring fencing’ or ‘hold separate’ would normally not be acceptable to merit a derogation from the ‘stand-still’ obligation. Most often, the best way to proceed is to demonstrate the absence of any effect on Danish markets, which may likely accelerate the process of obtaining an early clearance decision.

Public takeovers

Are there any special merger control rules applicable to public takeover bids?

The Competition Act does not prevent the implementation of a public bid that has been notified to the DCCA, provided that the acquirer does not exercise the voting rights attached to the securities in question or does so only to maintain the full value of those investments and on the basis of a derogation granted by the DCCA.

Documentation

What is the level of detail required in the preparation of a filing, and are there sanctions for supplying wrong or missing information?

Filing under the Competition Act requires the use of a specific form known as Annex 1. The form requires the provision of information about the parties, the markets, customers, suppliers and competitors, and is only a little less detailed than the form CO used under the EU Merger Regulation. For straightforward cases that are unlikely to raise competition concerns, a simplified ‘short-form’ filing using a form known as Annex 2 is also possible. This form is similar in structure to Annex 1 but requires less information to be submitted. Both forms require the lodging of a non-confidential version, which is intended to be used for market testing.

Fines may be imposed for supplying wrong or missing information. Fines of 50,000 kroner have been imposed in two unrelated merger cases involving the submission of incomplete information in one instance and omitting to correct previously submitted incorrect information in another.

Investigation phases and timetable

What are the typical steps and different phases of the investigation?

It is clear that pre-notification consultations with the DCCA may and should take place. Very often these consultations can have a significant impact on the outcome and provide the undertakings concerned with the opportunity to address possible competition concerns early in the process so as to ensure that the review process is accelerated. The informal pre-notification consultation is often initiated on the basis of a briefing paper or an early draft of the notification, which is shared with the DCCA.

The time frames (Phases I and II) are inspired by article 10(1) and (3) of the EU Merger Regulation. The Competition Authority may approve a concentration before the expiry of the initial investigation (Phase I). The Competition Authority cannot prohibit a concentration within Phase I but may initiate an in-depth investigation (Phase II) if there are serious doubts regarding the concentration’s compatibility with the Competition Act. The Competition Authority may ‘stop the clock’ at any time during the formal review periods in Phase I and II if the parties do not provide requested additional information within the time frame given.

What is the statutory timetable for clearance? Can it be speeded up?

The timetable for clearance is the same whether the merger is filed under the simplified procedure or the full-form notification procedure. Within 10 working days of the filing, the DCCA shall either declare the notification complete - thereby confirming that the time began running upon notification - or specify any missing information to be submitted. In cases of simplified notifications, the Competition Authority has 10 working days to decide whether to accept the simplified procedure or demand a full-form notification.

Unless the notification has been accepted as complete during the pre-merger notification consultation, the parties are often sent such requests, which will in effect extend the waiting period.

The DCCA must make its decision on the substance within 25 working days (Phase I) of the receipt of a complete notification. The Phase I deadline of 25 working days can be extended to 35 working days (extended Phase I) if one or more of the participating undertakings are proposing commitments. The Competition Council will decide to either approve the concentration or initiate further proceedings. In the latter case, the Competition Council must make a final decision within 90 working days (Phase II) after the expiry of the original 25 working days.

The time limit of 90 working days may be extended by 20 days if the undertakings propose new or revised commitments at a late stage (ie, if 70 working days or more have passed from the decision to initiate Phase II). The review period is thereby deadline is then extended to 110 days irrespective of the number of days remaining of the original deadline. The deadline can also be extended by up to 20 days on request by the parties or with the parties’ consent.

Similarly to the EU Merger Regulation, the Danish merger control scheme builds on close contacts as early in the process as possible. Cases that do not pose any substantive issues can often be cleared according to a simplified procedure. After a complete notification has been received, the DCCA decides within 25 working days whether a concentration may be approved on the basis of a simplified procedure. In practice, an approval on the basis of a simplified procedure will be given quickly, depending on the nature of the pre-notification.