News Archive 2015

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London 12th February – Ryanair Loses Aer Lingus Shareholding Appeal.

The UK Court of Appeal today rejected Ryanair’s appeal against a decision by the Competition Commission that it should reduce its shareholding in rival Irish airline Aer Lingus from 29% to less than 5%. Ryanair has indicated that it will appeal the judgment to the UK Supreme Court. International Airlines Group (IAG) recently launched a bid for Aer Lingus.

Gijon 8th May – Patrick Massey addresses X Gijon Annual Sports Economics Conference.

Bonus points for scoring tries could increase try scoring in the Six Nations Rugby Championship. This was one of the findings of a study on the effects of rule changes presented at the Annual Gijon Sports Economics Conference by Compecon’s Director Patrick Massey. The paper was co-authored with Dr Vincent Hogan of UCD. Historic rule changes such as increasing the number of points awarded for scoring a try had resulted in an increase in the number of tries per match confirming that teams respond to changed incentives. The paper noted that the gripping finale to the 2015 Championship might cause the tournament organisers (and television executives) to reject changes such as bonus points, but the authors noted that while the 2015 outcome produced the sort of dramatic conclusion sought by broadcasters, it was very much a once off.

Dublin 10th June – Media Merger Guidelines Published.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White TD, published new guidelines for assessing whether or not media mergers are in the public interest. While the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is responsible for deciding on the competition aspects of media mergers, section 74 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2014, provides that the Minister may prohibit a media merger as not being in the public interest where it results in an undue concentration of media ownership. The new guidelines are designed to clarify the circumstances in which a media merger would be considered likely to be not in the public interest.

Dublin 10th July – Ryanair to Sell Aer Lingus Shares.

Ryanair announced that its board had unanimously decided to accept IAG’s offer for its shares in Aer Lingus. The EU Commission twice blocked Ryanair bids for its Irish rival.  Ryanair has been engaged in a long running legal battle with the UK competition agencies which ruled that its minority shareholding in Aer Lingus was anti-competitive and had ordered it to reduce its stake from 29% to 5%. In June Ryanair announced that it would appeal a CMA decision confirming that it would have to sell its Aer Lingus shares.

Brussels 15th April – EU Commission Accuses Google of Abuse of Dominance.

The EU Commission has issued a Statement of Objections to Google alleging that the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services by systematically favouring its own comparison-shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU competition rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.

Dublin 11th May – CCPC clears PRL Group Acquisition of Murphy Freight Services at Phase 1.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission announced that it had cleared the proposed acquisition by PRL Group, a logistics service provider, of Murphy Freight Services following a Phase 1 investigation. Compecon advised PRL Group.

Dublin 14th May – Bus Dispute Deal Bad News for Competition. Newspaper reports indicated that a dispute between Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann and unions representing bus drivers had been resolved. The dispute had resulted in a two-day strike at the beginning of the month with more stoppages threatened. Essentially the unions were objecting to the fact that 10% of bus routes currently operated by the two State bus companies were to be put out to tender – or put more simply to the introduction of competition.

London 11th June – CMA Confirms Order Requiring Ryanair to Reduce Aer Lingus Shareholding.

The CMA has decided that there is no material change in circumstances or special reason for it not to require Ryanair to reduce its shareholding in Aer Lingus to 5%. The CMA has also published the final order requiring Ryanair to reduce its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus down to 5%. Ryanair has announced that it intends to appeal the decision.

Dublin 15th June – Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Clears BWG Acquisition of Londis Stores.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had cleared the proposed acquisition by BWG Foods of Londis. Both firms are engaged in the wholesale distribution of grocery goods and have a network of retailer franchisees. Compecon advised the parties on the merger notification to the CCPC.

Brussels 14th July – EU Commission Clears IAG Acquisition of Aer Lingus. The EU Commission has cleared IAG’s bid to acquire control of Aer Lingus. The Commission had concerns that the proposed transaction would have a negative impact on competition on a limited number of routes but IAG offered commitments which addressed the Commission’s concerns.

Zurich 28th August – Compecon Director Patrick Massey Presents Paper to European Sports Economics Association Annual Conference.

Patrick Massey presented a paper which showed that rule changes in rugby influence teams’ behaviour and strategic choices in matches. The paper, which was co-authored with Dr Vincent Hogan of UCD, noted that there was a recurring concern that a decline in try scoring would cause fans to lose interest. The paper analysed results in the Six Nations Championship since 1883. Increasing the relative value of a try led to more tries being scored. Introducing bonus league points for scoring a certain number of tries, as was the norm in many rugby tournaments, would also lead to more tries being scored. Such a change could be implemented unilaterally whereas further changes to the scoring system would have to be approved by the sport’s governing body.

Luxembourg 3rd September – Advocate General states Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of Alcohol May Breach EU Law.

In an opinion delivered today in a case referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the Scottish Court of Session, the Advoacate General has indicated that MUP regulations would breach EU law unless it can be shown that MUP has additional advantages or fewer disadvantages than alternative measures such as higher taxation. The case follows the enactment by the Scottish Parliament of legislation introducing MUP. The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA), the Confédération européenne des producteurs de spiritueux and the Comité européen des entreprises vins (CEEV) brought judicial review proceedings. The application was dismissed at first instance and the applicants then appealed. The Appeal Court then sought a preliminary ruling from the ECJ. Interestingly the AG also stated that when it is dealing with an application for judicial review of national rules which have not yet come into force, the national court must, in order to assess the proportionality of those rules to the objective pursued, examine not only the material available to and considered by the national authorities when the rules were being drawn up, but also all the factual information existing on the date on which it determines the matter. Irish Minister for Health Leo Varadker T.D. has indicated that he intends to press ahead with plans to introduce MUP legislation in Ireland, although showing that such measures are more effective than any alternatives sets a very high threshold that such legislation would have to pass in order to comply with EU law. Compecon prepared a report on MUP for the SWA.

Dublin 14th September – Flooring Company to be Prosecuted for Price Fixing. One of the largest flooring companies in Ireland and one of its directors are to be prosecuted for alleged price fixing and market sharing. The District Court returned the charges against both parties to the next sitting of the Central Criminal Court. This is the first criminal prosecution brought against parties for a number of years.

Dublin 15th October – CCPC Clears Topaz/Esso Merger Subject to Conditions. 

The CCPC today announced that it had cleared the proposed acquisition by Topaz Investments Limited (“Topaz”) of sole control of Esso Ireland Limited (“Esso Ireland”) subject to binding commitments that Topaz divest Esso’s Ireland’s 50% interest in a fuel terminal located at Dublin Port along with three service stations owned and operated by Esso Ireland in the Dublin area.  Compecon advised Topaz on the merger notification to the CCPC.

Dublin 16th October – High Court Dismisses Taxi Drivers’ Challenge to Deregulation of the Industry. The High Court dismissed an action brought by three taxi drivers challenging the decision to abolish quantitative restrictions on taxi numbers in 2000. The drivers had sought compensation on the grounds that the removal of limits on taxi numbers had wiped out the value of their licences. Prior to deregulation licences in Dublin reportedly sold for prices in excess of ir£100,000. It is reported that up to 1,200 drivers had issued proceedings challenging the decision and three sample cases went to hearing. Compecon’s Patrick Massey advised Dublin City Council, one of the defendants in the case, and gave expert evidence at the court hearing.

Brussels 21st October – Fiat and Starbucks Tax Deals Constituted Illegal State Aid.

The EU Commission has concluded that tax arrangements for Fiat in Luxembourg and for Starbucks in the Netherlands constitute illegal State Aid.

Dublin 17th November – Government to Consider Revisions to Legal Services Bill.

Newspaper reports indicate that the Minister for Justice is set to present proposals to the Cabinet for significant changes in the Legal Services Regulation Bill which was first brought before the Dail in October 2011. It is reported that the revised proposals would allow the Bar Council to retain its existing rules which provide that barristers must operate as sole traders. The original Bill had proposed permitting limited disciplinary partnerships (LDPs) between barristers and solicitors and multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs) between lawyers and other types of professionals such as accountants. Compecon prepared a report for the Bar Council which argued that there was no economic case for LDPs and MDPs.

Dublin 22nd November – Compecon Report Calls for Establishment of Wholesale Market for Whiskey.

A new report by Compecon recommends that a wholesale market for whiskey should be established as a way of reducing entry barriers and boosting exports and jobs. The report notes that the requirement to mature whiskey for three years before it can be sold constitutes a significant barrier to entry. In Scotland, the existence of a wholesale market is seen as crucial to facilitating entry by SMEs and for the growth of the entire Scotch whisky industry. For more click here.

Dublin 15th December – Supreme Court Rejects Appeals in Ferry Cases.

The Supreme Court issued its judgment on two appeals in relation to passenger charges on ferry services to the Aran Islands. In Island Ferries Teoranta (IFT) v. Minister of Communications Energy and Natural Resources, the Supreme Court held that the High Court was correct in finding that the Minister had acted ultra vires in imposing a charge of 80c per passenger for all passengers travelling by ferry from Rosaveal Co, Galway to the Aran Islands. The Minister had introduced the levy to raise funds to cross-subsidise other fisheries harbours. In IFT v Galway County Council (GCC) the High Court upheld a decision by GCC to impose a charge of 80 cent per passenger for ferry passengers landing at Kilronan Harbour on Inis Mor (the largest of the Aran Islands). The charge was to fund the cost of the upkeep and maintenance of the harbour in this case. Again, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court judgment. Compecon advised GCC in this case.

Luxembourg 23rd December – Court of Justice Rules Scottish Minimum Alcohol Pricing Legislation Illegal.

The ECJ today ruled that Scottish legislation to establish minimum unit pricing for alcohol was in breach of EU law. The Court held that there were alternative, less anti-competitive ways, such as raising excise duties on alcohol, of reducing alcohol consumption.  Minister for Health Leo Varadker TD has said he remains committed to introducing minimum pricing in Ireland, although the ECJ ruling would seem to make this a non-runner. Compecon prepared a report on the Scottish legislation for the Scotch Whiskey Association which had challenged the Scottish legislation.

Dublin 31st December – CCPC Clears PRL Group acquisition of Contract People Group.

The CCPC announced that it had cleared PRL’s proposed acquisition of Contract People without conditions following a Phase 1 investigation. Compecon advised PRL in this case.

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