EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.8221 BLACKSTONE / OFFICEFIRST (02 March 2017)
  • M.8239 NKT / ABB HIGH VOLTAGE CABLE BUSINESS (27 February 2017)
  • M.8248 TECH DATA / AVNET'S TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS (23 February 2017)
  • M.8290 FAIRFAX / AIG TARGET PORTFOLIO (27 February 2017)
  • M.8315 SIEMENS / MENTOR GRAPHICS (27 February 2017)
  • M.8349 KKR & CO / THE GFK VEREIN / GFK (27 February 2017)
  • M.8352 KKR / KSL / APPLE LEISURE GROUP (01 March 2017)
  • M.8390 PSPIB / TIAA / VANTAGE (01 March 2017) 

EU Competition

General Court rejects appeal on Chinese solar panel tariffs. On 28 February 2017, the General Court dismissed the appeal by Chinese solar-panel makers Yingli Energy, JingAo Solar Co. Ltd, and Canadian Solar to reverse the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs. In December 2013, the Council imposed both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules and other key components, such as wafers and cells originating in, or consigned from China. This was following an investigation made by the European Commission (Commission) which showed Chinese solar panels were being sold below their normal market value in Europe and further showed Chinese undertakings were receiving illegal subsidies. The Applicants’ pleas included first; a claim that the investigation did not include a representative sample of the products and was without reference to a notice of initiation; secondly, that the measures were calculated using methodology for a non-market economy on products from a market economy; thirdly, that the Commission’s investigation should only cover one product or one group of products whereas the cells and modules could not be regarded as a single product with regard to physical and technical characteristics, use, consumer perception, manufacturing process, and cost of production; and finally, that the injury caused by the dumped imports and the injury caused by other unconnected factors were not investigated separately and therefore the level of duty imposed was excessive. Each plea was rejected by the General Court and the action was dismissed in its entirety thus confirming the duties imposed by the Council.

EU Court rules that licences are needed for web-streaming retransmissions. On 1 March 2017, the General Court ruled that services that retransmit broadcasts from TV via the web need to have the rights holders’ permission. The Court of Appeal of England and Wales referred for a preliminary ruling questions concerning the interpretation of Article 9 of Directive 2001/29/EC in the proceedings between TV Catchup Limited, TV Catchup (UK) Limited and Media Resources Limited on one hand and ITV Broadcasting Limited, ITV2 Limited, ITV Digital Channels Limited, Channel Four Television Corporation, 4 Ventures Limited, Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited, and ITV Studios Limited on the other. Article 9 harmonises certain aspects of copyright in the information society. The question put to the General Court concerned the meaning of the phrase “access to cable of broadcasting services” in Article 9 and in particular the General Court was asked to consider whether this phrase can be interpreted as covering national legislation which provides copyright will not be infringed in the case of immediate retransmission. The General Court found that Article 9 cannot be interpreted in such a way and as a result, Article 9 does not cover or permit national legislation which provides that copyright is not infringed where there is immediate retransmission. On the basis of the General Court ruling, TVCatchup services retransmitting channels such as ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 are not protected by national legislation in this way and will need to have the right holders’ permission to avoid infringing copyright before the retransmission takes place.

State Aid

General Court upholds decision ordering France to recover illegal aid. On 1 March 2017, the General Court upheld the Commission’s decision ordering France to recover the illegal state aid which was granted to the French shipping company, SNCM. The amount of €220 million was paid to SNCM as financial compensation in relation to maritime transport services which they had provided between Marseille and Corsica as an additional service to cover the peak holiday period. In June 2012, the Commission investigated the compensation which had been granted to SNCM because the Commission was concerned that such compensation may not be compatible with the state aid rules relating to services of general economic interest. The Commission found that there was no real public service need for the provision of this additional service and therefore the state aid granted was unlawful. The General Court upheld the Commission’s decision and France must therefore recover the €220 million. (Judgement not yet available in English).

UK Competition

CMA revokes initial enforcement order in respect of Bupa Finance and Oasis Healthcare merger. On 27 February 2017, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revoked the initial enforcement order relating to Buba Finance Plc’s acquisition of The Oasis Healthcare Group. The initial enforcement order was made on 9 February 2017 in pursuit of section 72(2) of the Enterprise Act 2002 in order to prevent any pre-emptive action in relation to the completed merger. However, based on the evidence the CMA has received during its assessment of the acquisition, it has concluded it is appropriate to lift the initial order.      

CMA refers merger to Phase II.On 27 February 2017, the CMA referred the merger between the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust to a Phase II investigation. The CMA decided that the merger may result in a substantial lessening of competition within UK markets for goods and services, including the supply of acute elective specialties and maternity services. On 9 February 2017 the CMA had announced the parties’ request for a fast track referral thus accepting that the test for reference was met and also waiving their Phase I procedural rights. The CMA will now investigate in particular the potential impact the merger could have on the choice given to patients and the quality of the services provided to patients.      

CMA varies initial enforcement order in respect of National Fostering Agency Acorn Care. On 28 February 2017, the CMA published a variation order in relation to the initial enforcement order it made concerning the completed acquisition of Acorn Care 1 Limited (Acorn) by SSCP Spring Topco Limited. The enforcement order now applies to Acorn businesses which are involved in fostering placement services only as the CMA has concluded this is the area which raises competition concerns.      

CMA makes initial enforcement order to MSV Group Limited and Motorsports Vision Limited. On 3 March 2017, the CMA announced they have made an initial enforcement order to MSV Group Limited (MSV) and Motorsports Vision Limited (Motorsports) in connection to MSV’s acquisition of Motorsport’s circuit business in Donington Park and the assets and land rights relating to this. The order was made under section 72 of the Enterprise Act and commenced on 2 March 2017.

UK Cartels

CMA reaches a settlement in its investigation into estate agents price-fixing. On 2 March 2017, the CMA announced a settlement with four estate agents in Somerset who had taken part in a price-fixing cartel. Each estate agent has admitted being involved in a price-fixing cartel relating to residential estate agency services in Burnham-on-sea and, therefore, breaching Chapter 1 of the Competition Act 1998. The four estate agents, namely Abbott and Frost Limited, Gary Berryman Estate Agents, Greenslade Taylor Hunt, and West Coast Property Services (UK) Limited, will pay fines totalling £372,233. Annagram Estate Agents Limited have also been found to have participated in the price-fixing cartel, however, as they were the first estate agents to confess to this, they will not be fined by the CMA. A sixth estate agents, Saxons PS Limited, is also not a party to this settlement and the CMA continues to investigate whether Saxons PS Limited has infringed the law.