EU Competition

EU – Phase I merger notifications published in the Official Journal

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Dawn raids: Commission carries out inspections in electrical equipment industry

On 20 January 2010 European Commission (“Commission”) officials carried out targeted inspections at the premises of producers of Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (“FACTS”). This equipment is used to increase the power transfer capability of electricity transmission networks. The Commission suspects that the companies concerned may have violated Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). The Commission did not identify the companies involved in the dawn raids. However, in a company statement Swiss engineering group ABB Ltd has confirmed that the Commission has inspected the premises of its FACTS business in Sweden. Click here for more information.

Oneworld airline alliance: Commission assesses commitments

The Commission is assessing the effectiveness of proposed commitments received from British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia to alleviate the Commission’s concerns regarding potential anticompetitive agreements under Article 101 TFEU. The agreements relate to passenger transport on certain long-haul routes. Click here for more information.

UK Competition

OFT requests UK review of Orange/T-Mobile joint venture

The OFT has made a request to the Commission to refer the UK aspects of the proposed joint venture between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK back to the OFT under Article 9 of the EU Merger Regulation. The OFT’s initial view is that the joint venture threatens significantly to affect competition in mobile telecommunications in the UK. Click here for more information.

Stagecoach/Preston: CC accepts final undertakings

The Competition Commission (“CC”) has accepted final undertakings from Stagecoach Group Plc to address the substantial lessening of competition in the market for commercial bus services in the Preston area identified by the CC following the completed acquisition of Preston Bus Limited. To remedy the substantial lessening of competition, Stagecoach has given undertakings that require it to divest a package of assets and services which will constitute a separate corporate entity capable of being an effective competitor to Stagecoach. Click here for more information.

CC reviews conflict of interest

The Chairman of the CC has asked an independent panel to examine the CC’s rules and practices in relation to possible conflicts of interest of its members. In December 2009 the Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”) upheld BAA’s appeal against the CC’s final report on the grounds of apparent bias, resulting from a potential conflict of interest involving one of the inquiry group members. Click here for more information.

Competition EU Member States

France: The French competition authority has fined two medical technology providers € 750 000 each, for bid rigging tenders for hospital contracts. The companies, ALM SA and Maquet France were fined for submitting separate bids, when in fact, they were not commercially autonomous from each other.

Italy: The Italian competition authority has opened two separate investigations into Enel and Edipower into possible abuse of a dominant position and anti-competitive agreements on the market for electricity sold via an electricity exchange in Sicily. Enel, EdF subsidiary Edipower, their shareholders and respective parent companies are suspected of withholding capacity in order to raise zonal electricity prices. The investigations were initiated after complaint from Italy’s electricity and gas regulator AAEG.

State Aid

Germany: Commission orders recovery of aid granted to Sovello AG The Commission has decided under EU state aid rules that Sovello AG (formerly EverQ GmbH), a German manufacturer of solar panels, was not entitled to receive public support in the form of a bonus for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because the company did not meet the relevant criteria of the applicable EU framework for aid to SMEs. The Commission has therefore ordered Germany to recover the SME bonus from Sovello. Click here for more information.

Italy: Commission takes Italy to Court for failure to recover illegal aid The Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to comply with a Commission decision of July 2008 . The 2008 decision ordered Italy to recover state aid unlawfully granted for certain investment projects in the hotel industry. To date, Italy has not recovered the aid from the beneficiaries. Click here for more information.