EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7169 WEICHAI POWER / KION GROUP (16 February 2017)
  • M.8190 WEICHAI / KION (15 February 2017)
  • M.8263 SHARP / SKYTEC UMC (15 February 2017)
  • M.8347 EQT FUND MANAGEMENT / GETEC ENERGIE HOLDING / GETEC TARGET COMPANIES (10 February 2017)
  • M.8351 APOLLO MANAGEMENT / LUMILEDS HOLDING (15 February 2017)
  • M.8366 SCA / BSN (13 February 2017)

ECJ dismisses appeals regarding the candle wax cartel.

On 16 February 2017, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) handed down judgments (here, here, and here) on appeals by Tudapetrol Mineralölerzeugnisse Nils Hansen (Tudapetrol), Hansen & Rosenthal KG and H&R Wax Company Vertrieb GmbH and H&R ChemPharm against judgments of the General Court relating to the paraffin wax cartel. The ECJ has dismissed all of the appeals in their entirety and upheld the fines imposed by the European Commission (Commission) on the applicants for their participation in the paraffin wax cartel. Tudapetrol was a sales and distributing company for the Hansen & Rosenthal Group of paraffin waxes and slack wax. During its cartel investigation, the Commission found that although the entities are two separate and independent undertakings, due to both the close personal links and distribution links between the companies, the Commission referred to them in its Decision as “H&R/Tudapetrol”. In its appeal to the ECJ, Tudapetrol alleged that the General Court also referred to H&R/Tudapetrol in its judgment and, therefore, infringed the obligation to state reasons due to the lack of individualised findings as to the accusations against Tudapetrol. Tudapetrol also claimed that the General Court breached its essential rights of defence by referring to H&R/Tudapetrol, as it was not possible for Tudapetrol to know which individual allegations were raised against it, nor the evidence upon which those allegations were grounded. The ECJ dismissed both these arguments, finding that the General Court correctly observed instances in the Commission’s decision that referred specifically to, amongst other things, allegations against Tudapetrol. The Hansen & Rosenthal Group also argued the above points in its appeal, which were dismissed by the ECJ for the same reasons. In addition, the Hansen & Rosenthal Group argued that the General Court erred in its assessment of the conduct of an employee who performed several duties in parallel at different legally distinct undertakings. The ECJ also dismissed this claim, finding the General Court’s assessment was correct, and that it is possible that a single natural person may simultaneously act in the interests of different companies involved in an agreement.

Trade

CETA ratified by European Parliament. On 15 February 2017, the European Parliament voted in favour to ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at the EU level, clearing the last hurdle for the EU to have CETA to come into force. The vote was passed with 408 in favour, 254 against, and 33 abstentions. With the European Parliament’s approval, CETA is now provisionally in force, with the contentious provisions of investment protection and an investment court system currently excluded. CETA removes 99% of tariffs in trade, and EU and Canadian officials hope it will generate an increase in trade worth $12 billion a year. Car manufacturers and the EU textile sector are examples of beneficiaries of CETA, for which currently, Canadian duties of up to 18 percent are imposed. Service companies could also benefit and EU companies would be able to tender for public contracts at Canadian provincial and municipal level; this is the first time Canada has offered this. Canadian farmers would also be able to send larger quotas of their products to the EU market, and EU dairy producers would be able to export more than double the current amount of high quality cheeses to Canada. CETA still needs to be ratified by the Canadian Senate, where it is in its second of three readings. Some Canadian legislation must also be modified before CETA can be implemented. CETA will be fully implemented once all member states ratify it, if the Member States fail to ratify CETA, then the provisional application will also cease.

SolarWorld loses challenge to EU minimum-price deal with Chinese panel makers. On 16 February 2017, the General Court dismissed a claim made by SolarWorld, a German solar-panel manufacturer, against the Commission’s minimum-price deal for Chinese modules. SolarWorld argued that the deal between Europe and China, which set a minimum import price on panels from China that were considered to have been dumped on European markets, did not adequately protect Europe from Chinese dumping. By setting a minimum import price, European importers of the panels avoided paying dumping tariffs. However, SolarWorld argued that this provision did not shield European producers from dumped modules. SolarWorld claimed that the Commission erred in not assessing whether the new price levels were adequate to remove the harmful effects of dumping and subsidies on the European industry. The General Court ruled against SolarWorld’s arguments, finding that European law does not “require the Commission to conduct systemic monitoring of the elimination of the injurious effects of the dumping prior to every application of [an adjustment clause] of the undertaking leading to the adaptation of the minimum import levels”. The General Court added that SolarWorld would have had to convince the court that the Commission’s quarterly adjustments to the panel price were “manifestly inappropriate” in nature. 

State Aid

Commission approves German support for green cars infrastructure.On 10 February 2017, the Commission cleared plans by Germany to provide State aid in the amount of €300 million for the four year rollout of a countrywide network of electric-car charging infrastructure. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that "Electric vehicles can provide real benefits to society by reducing harmful emissions and noise pollution. The German support scheme will encourage consumers and businesses to use electric vehicles. It will provide the necessary infrastructure in a cost-effective way in line with EU State aid rules". The scheme promotes the installation of new standard and high-speed charging stations for electric vehicles, as well as the extension of the existing infrastructure, for companies and individuals alike. The scheme also includes a requirement that the electricity for the charging infrastructure comes from renewable energy sources. The Commission concluded that the measure is in line with Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows aid to facilitate the development of economic activities in the common interest under certain conditions, and that the scheme supports its own European Strategy for low-emission mobility. The Commission envisages that the State aid provided by Germany will stimulate investment in this market, which still requires such incentives before the market can function on its own.

Commission clears German investment for Saarbrücken airport. On 13 February 2017, the Commission approved German State aid of over €35 million for Saarbrücken airport, a regional airport in Saarland, Germany. The investment will be used for infrastructure modernisation and operating aid for the airport until 2019. The Commission found this scheme to be in line with the Commission's 2014 Aviation Guidelines, which allows Member States to support regional airports. The Commission also took note that Saarbrücken Airport has already initiated a consolidation plan to enable it to cover its operating expenses in the future. The Commission's assessment showed that the investment aid boosts the regional development and increases the mobility of the residents of Saarland without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.