Phase I Mergers
- M.7518 KENDRICK INVESTMENTS / ESSO IRELAND (25 June 2016)
- M.8088 MIDEA GROUP / KUKA (12 October 2016)
- M.8125 JAC / NEXPERIA (12 October 2016)
- M.8185 ATLANTIA / EDF / ACA (12 October 2016)
- M.8192 ADVENT INTERNATIONAL / THL / INVENTIV (10 October 2016)
- M.8195 BRAMBLES / FR / JV (7 October 2016)
- M.8197 CINVEN / OLD MUTUAL WEALTH ITALY (10 October 2016)
- M.8203 BLACKSTONE / NEW MOUNTAIN / JDA SOFTWARE (10 October 2016)
- M.8211 MARUBENI / TOHO GAS / GALP ENERGIA / GGND (14 October 2016)
EU appeals WTO ruling on unlawful Airbus aid. On 13 October 2016 the European Commission (Commission) appealed the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling (which can be found here and here), disagreeing with the WTO’s assertion that the Commission, France, Germany, Spain and the UK had failed to comply with an earlier WTO ruling by maintaining illegal subsidies for aircraft manufacturer, Airbus. The WTO judges found the European aid provided to Airbus caused “genuine and substantial” loss of sales for rival U.S. aircraft manufacturer, Boeing. The Commission said it “in particular disagrees with the legal conclusion that, even though most of the subsidies challenged by the US have ended, the EU has not yet fully complied with the previous ruling.” The Commission have appealed on the basis that the WTO failed to distinguish the elements that would determine whether the loans to Airbus were subsidised, noting that “this determination would be based on comparison of the interest rate charged to Airbus under the public loan scheme with market benchmark rates”, and that the Commission disagrees with the elements considered by the WTO to determine such market benchmark. The Commission also alleges that “several errors” have been made by the WTO when assessing the harm the European subsidies to Airbus caused to Boeing, noting that the WTO have “unequivocally ruled that repayable loans in themselves are not subsidies”, thus “any subsidy element would consist only of the differential between the interest paid by Airbus and the market rate”.
Commission authorises Greek support for Attica bank. On 10 October 2016, the Commission announced that it has approved the proposed State support in the form of a guarantee from the Greece government to Attica Bank, in order to aid the bank’s access to liquidity. The Commission found that the proposed guarantee was proportionate and within the Commission’s guidelines on State aid to banks. Attica Bank intends to issue bonds which can serve as collateral for Eurosystem financing operations. Greece will provide a state guarantee on these bonds, in exchange for a fee paid by Attica Bank, and will have a nominal amount of €380 million.
Commission permits amended Slovenian support scheme. On 10 October 2016, the Commission approved an amended Slovenian support scheme for renewable energy and high efficiency cogeneration. Slovenia had notified the Commission of plans to amend its existing support scheme for renewable energy and high-efficiency cogeneration to make it more cost-effective and improve the integration of renewable electricity into the market. Notable amendments were the introduction of a bidding process, a reduction of the levy charged on undertakings in certain energy-intensive sectors and a market premium for operators above 500KW. The Commission found these plans to be within the guidelines set for State aid; in particular the 2014 Guidelines which, from January 2017, allows State aid to be granted on environmental protection and energy projects only where there has been a transparent, non-discriminatory and competitive bidding process for such aid, that was open to all producers of renewable energy.
ECJ dismisses an appeal by Pollmeier. On 12 October 2016, Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) confirmed the previous ruling of the General Court, that the (i) regional investment grant; and (ii) two public guarantees given to Abalon Hardwood Hessen (AHH) did not involve State aid from the German state of Hesse as the investment grant and guarantees were (i) existing aid; and (ii) satisfied the de minimis Regulation. Pollmeier Massivholz GmbH (Pollmeier), a competitor of AHH, brought this appeal to the ECJ after AHH was awarded state assistance with the building of a saw mill made exclusively for of beech wood, alleging that such State aid was unlawful.
General Court dismisses appeal on Commission decision to approve Danish aid for written media. On 11 October 2016, the General Court handed down its judgment in an action by Danish newspaper Søndagsavisen A/S against a decision of the Commission not to oppose Denmark’s production and innovation aid for written media. The Commission recognised the scheme being assisted by the Danish government was to support newspapers and internet media to endorse high quality independent editorial content, which the newspapers and internet media ordinarily would not have done without public support. Søndagsavisen had alleged the Commission failed to consider whether such scheme would provide a breadth of news content to the Danish people, thus failing to see whether the scheme was truly democratic. Specifically, Søndagsavisen argued against the condition that at least half of the media's content shall constitute editorial material. The General Court dismissed the appeal as unfounded in its entirety.
Commission finds South Korea’s import bans “unjustifiable”. On 14 October 2016 the Commission deemed South Korea’s country-wide import bans on EU member states “unjustifiable”, and suggested such bans remain a point of tension. South Korea introduced these bans following animal disease outbreaks in Europe, after a review in 2012. The Commission’s ambassador to the WTO, Marc Vanheukelen, commented on South Korea’s trade policy as part of the WTO’s two-day Trade Policy Review of South Korea. Vanheukelen stated: “unjustifiably, [South] Korea continues to impose countrywide bans on EU member states when an animal disease outbreak occurs and lifts them only after lengthy and unclear approval procedures.” The Commission also accused South Korea of being unclear when drafting new laws, noting that it “hardly gives sufficient time” for any trading partners to review and comment on the draft legalisation, nor does it allow time for trading partners to adapt to the new rules.
CMA accepts undertakings in Ladbrokes / Coral merger. On 12 October 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published their acceptance of the final undertakings given by Ladbrokes plc on its acquisition of Gala Coral Group Limited (Coral). The CMA had undertaken a Phase II investigation, finding that both parties were the second and third largest bookmakers in the UK by number of betting shops, and identified 642 local markets in the UK where the merger between the entities could cause a loss of competition. As a result, the CMA requested divestment undertakings, and Ladbrokes plc agreed to dispose of 350 – 400 licensed betting shops to “one or more” buyers to ease the CMA’s concerns.