The European Commission has launched a public consultation on draft Guidelines for the assessment of mergers between companies in so-called vertical or conglomerate relationships (also known as “non-horizontal mergers”). The draft Guidelines define vertical mergers as mergers between parties that operate on different levels of the supply chain and conglomerate mergers as mergers between parties that are not in a purely horizontal or vertical relationship but are active in closely related markets.

The draft Guidelines have been published for consultation and the Commission welcomes any comments by interested parties until 12 May 2007. Following the consultation, the Commission will by the end of 2007 adopt a final version of the Guidelines to provide guidance to companies envisaging vertical or conglomerate mergers. The non-horizontal merger Guidelines will complement the existing Guidelines on horizontal mergers and provide examples, based on established economic principles, of situations in which vertical and conglomerate mergers may significantly impede effective competition. The draft Guidelines also provide ‘safe harbours’ in terms of market share and concentration levels below which the Commission is unlikely to identify competition concerns. It hopes to enable interested parties to identify such mergers more easily. [13 February 2007]