Published: September 2016Contents
i) What are the hot topics?
The potential consequences for failing to file in jurisdictions with mandatory requirements vary. Almost all jurisdictions require that the notification process be concluded prior to completion (e.g., pre-merger, suspensory regimes), rather than permitting the transaction to close as long as notification is made prior to closing. Many of these jurisdictions can impose a significant fine for failure to notify before closing, even where the transaction raises no competition concerns (e.g., Austria, Cyprus, India, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Turkey). In France, for instance, the competition authority imposed a €4 million fine on Castel Frères for failure to notify its acquisition of part of the Patriarche group. In Ukraine, the competition authority focused its efforts on discovering consummated transactions that had not been notified, and imposed fines in 32 such cases in 2015 alone
ii) Tell us about any key legal developments – recent or pending – and their international impact.
It is becoming the norm in large cross-border transactions raising competition concerns for the United States, Canadian, Mexican and EC authorities to work closely together during the investigative stages, and even in determining remedies, minimising the potential of arriving at diverging outcomes. The KFTC has stated that it will engage in even greater cooperation with foreign competition authorities, particularly those of China and Japan, which are similar to Korea in their industrial structure. Regional cooperation among some of the newer agencies has also become more common; for example, the Argentinian authority has worked with Brazil’s CADE, which in turn has worked with the Chilean authority. Competition authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey similarly maintain close ties and cooperate on transactions. Taiwan is part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, which shares a database. In transactions not requiring filings in multiple European jurisdictions, Member States often keep each other informed during the course of an investigation. In addition, transactions not meeting the EC threshold can nevertheless be referred to the European Commission in appropriate circumstances. The United States has signed cooperation agreements with a number of jurisdictions, including most recently Peru and India. China has ‘consulted’ with the United States and the EC on some mergers and entered into a cooperation agreement with the United States authorities in 2011.
iii) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for practitioners and clients?
Given the ability of most competition agencies with pre-merger notification laws to delay, and even block, a transaction, it is imperative to take each jurisdiction – small or large, new or mature – seriously. For instance, in 2009, China blocked the Coca-Cola Company’s proposed acquisition of China Huiyuan Juice Group Limited and imposed conditions on four mergers involving non-China-domiciled firms. In Phonak/ReSound (a merger between a Swiss undertaking and a Danish undertaking, each with a German subsidiary), the German Federal Cartel Office blocked the entire merger, even though less than 10 per cent of each of the undertakings was attributable to Germany. It is, therefore, imperative that counsel for such a transaction develops a comprehensive plan prior to, or immediately upon, execution of an agreement concerning where and when to file notification with competition authorities regarding such a transaction.