UK Competition

CMA to consider undertakings offered by The Original Bowling Company. On 1 September 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it has decided to consider whether to accept undertakings offered by ten-pin bowling company, The Original Bowling Company Ltd, in relation to its proposed acquisition of Bowlplex Ltd. It is hoped by The Original Bowling Company Ltd that the undertakings will avoid a Phase 2 investigation. There are six local markets where both companies are considered to compete and The Original Bowling Company Ltd has offered to sell a bowling centre in each market. It is anticipated that the CMA will arrive at a decision in respect of the undertakings by 27 October 2015.

EU Cartels

Advocate General Opinions on calcium and magnesium reagents cartel appeals. On 3 September 2015, Advocate General Wahl and Advocate General Mengozzi gave Opinions on appeals by SKW Stahl-Metallurgie GmbH (SKW GmbH) and SKW Stahl-Metallurgie Holding AG(SKW Holding) and by Evonik Degussa GmbH and AlzChem AG respectively against General Court judgments on the calcium and magnesium reagents price-fixing cartel. The parties all submitted several grounds of appeal. SKW GmbH and SKW Holding contended that the General Court failed to acknowledge that the Commission’s refusal for an in camera hearing amounted to a breach of essential procedural rights. The Advocate General concluded that the General Court had not erred in its assessment of the Commission’s procedure and that this appeal should be dismissed in its entirety. Evonik Degussa GmbH and AlzChem AG contended that the General Court erred in attributing to them the anti-competitive conduct of SKW Stahl-Technik GmbH & Co. KG. The Advocate General concluded that this appeal should also be dismissed in its entirety.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7713 - REWE ZF / Kuoni Reisen and related group companies (3 September 2015)
  • M.7631 - Royal Dutch Shell / BG Group (2 September 2015)
  • M.7714 - Apollo / NKBM (1 September 2015)
  • M.7680 - DCC Group / Butagaz (1 September 2015)
  • M.7676 - GKN / Fokker (31 August 2015)

State Aid

ECJ ruling on calculation of interest when recovering unlawful state aid. On 3 September 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in a preliminary reference from the Italian Supreme Court on the calculation of interest when recovering unlawful state aid. The ECJ confirmed that where a Commission decision ordering recovery of aid prior to the entry into force of Regulation 794/2004 implementing Regulation 659/1999 on the application of Article 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is silent on whether the interest rate to be charged is simple or compound, it shall be governed by national procedures.

Commission approves Danish aid to energy intensive users. On 31 August 2015, the European Commission (Commission) announced its decision to approve a Danish support scheme with a maximum annual budget of DKK 185 million (approximately €24.8 million) aimed at partially compensating energy-intensive users for the payment of a tariff that finances renewable energy support. The Commission concluded that the measure would maintain the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries without distorting competition in the single market, and that the aid met the conditions of the Commission’s Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020. In return for the aid, Denmark requires that beneficiaries of the scheme enter into energy efficiency agreements.

Speeches & Publications

CMA consults on draft guidance on water and sewerage mergers. On 2 September 2015, the CMA published draft guidance on its procedure and assessment in mergers involving two or more water and sewerage or water only companies at Phase 1 and Phase 2. The guidance outlines the legal framework, processes and methodology used by the CMA to operate the special water merger regime. The CMA invites responses to the consultation by 15 October 2015.

CMA “60-second summary” guidance on competition law for accountants in practice. On 2 September 2015, the CMA published an introductory guidance note for accountants on competition law. The note states that accountants are well placed to make their business clients aware of their duty to comply with competition law and identifies what accountants ought to be aware of when considering their clients’ compliance with competition law.