Dublin 4th January – CCPC Publishes Mergers & Acquisitions Report 2021.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission published its 2021 Mergers & Acquisitions Report. The report provides an overview of merger cases decided by the CCPC in 2021. 81 mergers were notified to the CCPC in 2021 compared with 41 the previous year. The CCPC issued 74 Determinations in 2021, six of which related to cases carried over from the previous year. 14 cases were subject to extended Phase 1 investigations while three cases were subject to a full Phase 2 investigation. The Report could be improved through the inclusion of some additional information on merger cases notified to and decided by the CCPC. For example, it would be useful to know the breakdown of cases between horizontal and vertical mergers. For more see our Blog post on CCPC Report.
Dublin 4th January – Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol comes into force.
Legislation providing for minimum unit pricing of alcohol comes into force. The legislation will result in significant price increases, particularly for alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences, increase drink industry profits and reduce Government excise tax receipts. The measures have been introduced in order to reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption in Ireland has been falling for many years. Higher excise duties would represent a more appropriate response.
Dublin 21st January – Complaints Prompt Electricity Price Investigation.
Reports in today’s Irish Times that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities is investigating complaints into ESB’s behaviour. Fianna Fail T.D. Barry Cowan and a number of electricity suppliers have claimed that ESB pushed up wholesale prices at a time when two power plants owned by rival operators were out of action while wind farm generation was lower than normal due to weather conditions. It has also been alleged that ESB submitted bids for new power plants that were too low to be viable to deter rivals. The ESB denies the allegations. Click here for more.
Dublin 30th January – New Competition Bill Published.
The Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadker T.D., announced that the Government had given approval for the publication of the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022. The Bill proposes to create a new regime of administrative fines for breaches of competition law. The Bill also provides that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) would be able to compel parties to notify mergers below the notification if the CCPC believed that a merger could result in a substantial lessening of competition.
London 3rd February – CMA fines Drug Companies.
The CMA has imposed fines of over £35m on a number of drug companies in relation to an arrangement whereby a competitor was paid not to launch a rival product enabling the incumbents to susbstantially raise the prices charged to the NHS for prochlorperazine tablets. According to the CMA the price per pack of 50 tablets increased from £6.49 to £51.68, an increase of 700%, between December 2013 and December 2017. The firms fined include Advanz, the private equity firm Cinven, and Lexon, all of which have been previously fined for competition law breaches.
London 4th February – CMA fines Meta for a second time for breaching an enforcement order.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had fined Meta (previously known as Facebook) £1.5m for breaching an enforcement order in relation to it attempted acquisition of Giphy. Enforcement orders seek to ensure that merging continue to compete with one another and prevents them from integrating further while a merger review is underway. Meta failed to inform the CMA of resignations of a number of key Giphy staff, a requirement under the enforcement order. The CMA previously fined Meta £50 million for an earlier breach of the Order. The CMA issued a decision on 30th November 2021 requiring Meta to sell Giphy in its entirety after finding the deal could harm social media users and UK advertisers.
Dublin 8th February – CCPC Publishes Motor Insurance Report.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) published the full report on its investigation into potential anti-competitive conduct in the private motor insurance business. The CCPC closed the investigation, which began in 2016, in August 2021, after six undertakings, AIG Europe S.A. Ireland Branch Office, Allianz PLC, AXA Insurance DAC, Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC, FBD Insurance PLC, and AA Ireland Limited entered into legally binding agreements with the CCPC committing them to reforming their competition law compliance programmes. Brokers Ireland (formerly the Irish Brokers Association and the Professional Insurance Brokers Association) refused to give such commitment.
Dublin 18th February – CCPC Issues Assessment of Bank Merger.
The CCPC announced that it had issued an Assessment to the merging parties in relation to Bank of Ireland’s proposed acquisition of KBC Bank Ireland’s performing loan assets (including performing mortgages, commercial and consumer loans), deposits and a small number of non-performing mortgages. The Assessment sets out the CCPC’s preliminary views in relation to the proposal.
Dublin 9th March – Labour Court Considers Security Industry ERO.
The Security Employers’ Association included a report by Compecon in their submission to the Labour Court, arguing against the introduction of an employment regulation order (ERO) which would increase minimum wages in the industry. The Compecon Report analysed claims made in a report by the industry’s joint labour committee (JLC) that “efficiency wage theory” indicated that such an increase could reduce costs. The report noted that this theory depended on quite specific assumptions and that the conditions necessary for such an outcome did not exist in the security industry. It also noted that the JLC had elsewhere argued that any increase in costs could be passed on to customers. The Compecon Report argued that the proposal may represent a “raising rivals’ costs” strategy which would negatively affect the ability of smaller, more labour intensive firms to compete with larger ones, and act as an entry barrier. It cited several examples from the US and Germany where firms had agreed wage increases as a a way of raising rivals’ costs. A copy of the Compecon Report is available from the Labour Court website and can be accessed by clicking here.
Brussels 11th March – EU Commission investigates Google and meta.
The EU Commission announced that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether an agreement between Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) for online display advertising services may have breached EU competition rules. The investigation concerns a September 2018 agreement, which Google code-named “Jedi Blue”, between Google and Meta for the participation of Meta’s Audience Network in Google’s Open Bidding programme. The Commission is concerned that the agreement may form part of efforts to exclude ad tech services competing with Google’s Open Bidding programme, and therefore restrict or distort competition in markets for online display advertising, to the detriment of publishers, and ultimately consumers.
Brussels 15th March – EU Commission Searches Automotive Firms.
The EU Commission announced that it had carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies and associations active in the automotive sector. The inspections and subsequent requests for information concern possible collusion in relation to the collection, treatment and recovery of end-of-life cars and vans which are considered waste.
Dublin 7th April – CCPC to Investigate Tesco Acquisition of Joyce’s Supermarket.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition by Tesco Ireland Limited of sole control of Patrick C. Joyce Supermarket (Headford) Unlimited Company. Following an extended Phase 1 review, the CCPC has determined that a full investigation is required in order to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State.
Sport, Business & Management 11th April – Economic analysis of uRC published.
An economic analysis of the United Rugby Championsip (URC) by Compecon Director Patrick Massey and Dr Vincent Hogan of UCD has been published in Sport, Business & Management journal. The analysis concludes that the URC, which began as the Celtic League in 2001, has been reasonably successful, although several member teams have closed down and the majority remain dependent on their national rugby unions for financial support. Click here to access the article.
University College Cork 21st April – Patrick massey addresses 8th Annual Sports economics workshop.
Compecon Director, Patrick Massey, addressed the 8th Annual Sports Economics Workshop organised by the UCC Centre for Sports Economics and Law. He spoke about competition between sports leagues in the early decades of English football. Following its launch in 1895, the Northern Rugby Football Union, which became the Rugby League, adopted a number of rule changes designed to speed up the sport and make it more attractive to fans, in response to the growing popularity of soccer. Soccer’s Football League aggressively recruited clubs in Rugby League strongholds in the early 1900s. He also described how the Football League merged with rivals, the Football Alliance in 1892 and the Southern League in 1920.
Dublin 22nd april – CCPC to conduct phase 2 investigation of Uniphar acquisition of navicorp.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it has decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition of pharmacy solutions business, NaviCorp Limited, by healthcare services provider, Uniphar Plc. Following an extended Phase 1 investigation, the CCPC has determined that a full investigation is required in order to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State.
Dromore County Tyrone 1st May – Merger Abandoned due to CMA Investigation.
Canadian firm, Ritchie Brothers, announced that it had abandoned its planned acquisition of Tyrone based Euro Auctions. The CMA had expressed concern over the impact the proposed merger because many UK businesses were dependent on the two companies to buy and sell construction machinery. According to the CMa the parties were the two largest auction providers in the sector. The CMA had launched a Phase 2 investigation despite both firms having offered undertakings to address competition concerns.
Brussels 2nd May – EU Commission Issues statement of objections in relation to Applepay.
The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that the latter had abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. The Commission argues that by limiting access to a standard technology used for contactless payments with mobile devices in stores (‘Near-Field Communication (NFC)’ or ‘tap and go’), Apple has restricted competition in the mobile wallets market on iOS. The Commission has taken issue with Apple’s decision to prevent mobile wallets app developers, from accessing the necessary hardware and software (‘NFC input’) on its devices, to the benefit of its own solution, Apple Pay.
Gijon 6th May – Patrick Massey Addresses Gijon Sports Economics Conference.
Compecon director Patrick Massey presented a paper at the Annual Gijon Sports Economics Conference which analysed the impact of attendances on team performances in Rugby Union. The paper was co-authored with Vincent Hogan of UCD, Prof. Paul Downward of Loughborough University and Prof Peter Dawson of the University of East Anglia and was based on an analysis of URC matches over the period 2012/13 to 2019/20. Click here to download presentation.
Dublin 10th May – CCPC Launches Phase 2 Investigation into pTSB/Ulster bank merger.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it will carry out a full Phase 2 investigation of the proposed acquisition by Permanent TSB of Ulster Bank. The transaction is one of a number of mergers between financial institutions in Ireland over the past 12-18 months. The CCPC is already conducting Phase 2 investigations in relation to a number of these proposed transactions
Brussels 10th May – EU Commission Publishes New Vertical Restraints Block Exemption.
The EU Commission has adopted a new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation which will enter into force on 1st June 2022. The main changes to the previous vertical restraint rules mean that:
- Certain aspects of dual distribution and certain types of parity obligations will no longer be exempted under the new Block Exemption and will have to be assessed individually under Article 101 (3).
- (i) certain restrictions of a buyer’s ability to actively approach individual customers, i.e. active sales, and (ii) certain practices relating to online sales, namely the ability to charge the same distributor different wholesale prices for products to be sold online and offline and the ability to impose different criteria for online and offline sales in selective distribution systems will in future be exempt from Article 101(1).
Click here for further information.
London 19th May – CMA Expresses Concerns Over Veolia/Suez Merger.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that the merger of Veolia and Suez would lead to a loss of competition in the supply of several waste and water management services in the UK, following a full Phase 2 investigation. According to the CMA this could “lead to more costly and lower quality services, and in turn to higher council tax bills, as local councils and some businesses would have less choice when procuring key waste and water management services.” Veolia and Suez are 2 of the largest suppliers of waste management services to councils and businesses in the UK. Both companies are active across the waste management supply chain – from the collection of waste to the operation of facilities for composting and incineration, to landfill sites.
Dublin 24th May – CCPC Clears BOI/KBC Merger Subject to conditions.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has announced that it has cleared Bank of Ireland’s acquisition of certain assets of KBC Bank Ireland. The decision follows a full Phase 2 investigation which identified significant competition concerns in relation to the mortgage market. In particular, the CCPC expressed concerns about the ability of non-bank lenders to provide effective competition in the wake of KBC’s exit in a rising interest rate environment. The CCPC stated that it “considered it important that non-bank lenders operating in the Irish mortgage market be supported in their continued growth and role as emerging competitors in the sector”. To allay these concerns, BOI has agreed “to make €1 billion in total funding available to certain non-bank lenders through the purchasing of securities issued by them”. Compecon advised the CCPC in relation to the transaction.
Dublin 2nd June – CCPC Claims It Saved Consumers €66m in 4 years.
The Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) has published a report that estimates the potential value to consumers of the its competition enforcement and merger control work. The report which was prepared by the CCPC claims that over the four year period 2017-2021, the financial benefit to consumers from the CCPC’s competition enforcement and merger control work was €65.82 million. It argues that this does not include “the – likely much larger – benefits from deterring breaches of competition law and of deterring companies from proposing anti-competitive mergers.” The Report can be downloaded from the CCPC website.
Dublin 7th June – CCPC Clears Supermarket Merger Subject to Conditions.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had cleared Tesco’s acquisition of Joyce’s Supermarkets. Joyce’s operate a number of supermarkets in the Galway area following a Phase 2 investigation. The clearance is subject to a number of conditions including a commitment by Tesco to sell one of the Joyce Supermarkets located at Oranmore as a going concern to a suitable purchaser. The CCPC had concerns about the number of competing supermarkets that would be available in the Oranmore area following the transaction.
London 14th June – CAT Upholds CMA Meta/Giphy Merger Decision.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) handed down its judgement in relation to Meta’s appeal against a Competition and Market Authority (CMA) ruling that Meta’s acquisiton of Giphy was anti-competitive. The CMA had found that Meta’s purchase of Giphy would reduce competition between social media platforms and had already removed Giphy as a potential challenger in the display advertising market in the UK. The CMA decision required Meta to sell Giphy to a purchaser approved by the CMA. The CAT rejected five of Meta’s six grounds of appeal. The CAT stated that it had “no hesitation” in concluding that the CMA’s finding that the merger between Meta and Giphy substantially reduced dynamic competition was lawful.
Dublin 16th June – CCPC Clears Payments JV Subject to Conditions.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cleared, a proposed joint venture between AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC to provide a new mobile payments service, subject to a number of legally binding commitments. The mobile payments service will be available to customers of banks and other participating financial institutions. The JV will facilitate: (i) instant person-to-person payments; and, (ii) instant person-to-business payments services which can be used by online merchants on their websites, or in retail outlets through the use of QR codes, to allow consumers to pay for goods and services, using a smartphone app. Compecon advised the CCPC in relation to the transaction.
Dublin 29th June – President Signs Competition (Amendment) Act 2022 Into Law.
President Michael D. Higgins signed the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2022, into law. The Act provides for administrative fines for breaches of competition law.
Brussels 30th June – EU Commission Accepts Insurance Ireland Commitments on Data Access.
The EU Commission has accepted commitments offered by Insurance Ireland granting ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to its Insurance Link information exchange system, which contains important data for companies offering motor vehicle insurance services in Ireland. In a Statement of Objections issued in June, the Commission outlined its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland arbitrarily delayed or in practice denied access of non-members to its Insurance Link information exchange system, thereby restricting competition in the Irish motor vehicle insurance market. The commitments are legally binding.
Dublin 22nd July – CCPC Clears Permanent TSB/Ulster Bank Deal.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) cleared the proposed acquisition of certain assets of Ulster Bank Ireland DAC (Ulster Bank) by Permanent TSB PLC (PTSB). These assets consist of Ulster Bank’s performing non-tracker mortgage loans; a subset of Ulster Bank’s non-performing non-tracker mortgage loans; Ulster Bank’s entire performing micro-SME business direct loan book; along with 25 Ulster Bank branches. Ulster Bank had announced its intention to withdraw all of its banking services in the State in February 2021. The CCPC accepted the parties’ argument Ulster Bank would have exited the State irrespective of whether or not the proposed merger proceeded and concluded that it would not therefore result in a substantial lessening of competition.
Dublin 26th July – CCPC Launches Phase 2 investigation of oil merger.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition by East Cork Oil Company Unlimited Company of sole control of Misty Lane Holdings Limited including its subsidiaries Arch Avenue Holdings Limited, Atlantic Oils (Ireland) Limited, and Geaney Oil Limited. Following an extended Phase 1 investigation, the CCPC concluded that a full investigation was required in order to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State.
Helsinki 25th August -Compecon’s Patrick Massey Presents Paper on competition between sports leagues to ESEA Conference.
Compecon Director, Patrick Massey, presented a paper on competition between leagues in the early decades of English football at the European Sports Economics Association Annual Conference. It has been claimed that the formation of rival leagues and deterrence by incumbents is one of the least studied forms of competition in sports. In his presentation, Patrick described how there had been at least three rival leagues established following the formation of the Football League in 1888. One of these failed to complete its first season. The other two were more successful but ultimately merged with the Football League. He also cited evidence of rivalry between the Football League and Rugby League in the decade following the latter’s emergence in 1895. Rugby League introduced a number of rule changes to counter the growing popularity of soccer while in the early 1900s the Football League had “aggressively” recruited teams located in Rugby League strongholds in Yorkshire, including some clubs that switched from Rugby League to soccer. The paper was co-authored with Prof James Reade of the University of Reading.
Brussels 6th September – EU Commission prohibits Illumina Acquisition of GRAIL.
The European Commission prohibited the implemented acquisition of GRAIL by Illumina. The Commission concluded that the merger would have stifled innovation, and reduced choice in the emerging market for blood-based early cancer detection tests. The merger involved the vertical integration of Illumina, the unrivalled supplier of NGS systems for genetic and genomic analysis, with GRAIL, a customer of Illumina using NGS systems to develop cancer detection tests. The merger would have enabled and incentivised Illumina to foreclose GRAIL’s rivals, who were dependent on Illumina’s technology, from access to an essential input that they needed to develop and market their own tests, putting them at a competitive disadvantage. The Commission concluded that remedies offered by Illumina were inadequate to address these concerns.
Dublin 22nd September – CCPC issues assessment of uniphar merger.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has issued an assessment to the parties in relation to the proposed acquisition of pharmacy solutions business, NaviCorp Limited (trading as Navi Group), by healthcare services provider, Uniphar PLC, The assessment sets out the preliminary views of the CCPC and is not a final determination. Nevertheless, the issuing of an assessment indicates that the CCPC has concerns about the likely effects of the proposed merger. The parties have 15 working days to respond in writing to the CCPC’s assessment and they may also ask to make oral submissions.
London 27th September –CMA Fines Firms for Price-Fixing of Football Merchandise.
The Competition and markets Authority announced that it had imposed fines totalling over £2 million on Elite Sports, JD Sports and Rangers FC after they admitted to fixing the prices of certain Rangers FC merchandise. The CMA found that Elite Sports and JD Sports had fixed the retail prices of a number of Rangers-branded replica kits and other clothing products from September 2018 until July 2019. Rangers FC also took part in the collusion but only to the extent of fixing the retail price of adult home short-sleeved replica shirts from September 2018 to mid-November 2018. All 3 firms colluded to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of the shirt on Elite’s Gers Online store. Elite Sports has been fined £459,000, JD Sports £1,485,000 and Rangers £225,000.
Dublin 8th november – CCPC Accepts Binding Commitments in Grocery Wholesale Merger.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announted that it had cleared BWG’s acquisition of McCarricks subject to binding commitments. Both parties are engaged in the wholesale grocery business. The commitments are are intended to prevent BWG from acquiring McCarrick’s shareholdings in two wholesale buying groups, Stonehouse and GRSL, and to prevent the exchange of competitively sensitive information between BWG, Stonehouse and/or GRSL,
Dublin 25th november – CCPC Issues Assessment of Planned Fuel Merger.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had issued an Assessment to the merging parties in respect of East Cork Oil’s proposed acquisition of Misty Lane. The transaction was notified to the CCPC in March. The Assessment outlines the CCPC’s preliminary conclusions in relation to the proposed transaction. The issuing of an Assessment indicates that the CCPC has concerns that the proposed transaction may be aniti-competitive.
Dublin 6th December – Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Annual Merger Review Breakfast Briefing.
Compecon’s Patrick Massey participating on the panel discussing twenty years of Irish merger control at the CCPC Annual Merger Review Breakfast Briefing at the Spenser Hotel in Dublin.
Dublin 13th December – East Cork Oil abandons misty lane acquisition.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that East Cork Oil Company Unlimited Company had abandoned its plans to acquire sole control of Misty Lane Holdings Limited (Misty Lane) and its subsidiaries, and that the parties were therefore withdrawing the notification of that proposed acquisition which had been submitted on 30th March 2022.
The CCPC had issued an assessment of the proposed acquisition to both parties on 25th November outlining the CCPC’s preliminary conclusions that the proposed acquisition would be likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in certain geographic markets for:
- The supply of kerosene (home heating oil) to small customers
- The supply of Sulphur Free Gas Oil (agricultural or ‘green’ diesel) to small customers and
- The supply of road diesel to small customers
East Cork Oil informed the CCPC that it did not agree with those preliminary conclusions but informed the CCPC on 12th December 2022 that it had decided not to proceed with the proposed acquisition.
Dublin 15th December – CCPC blocks Uniphar Acquisition of NaviCorp .
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had prohibited the proposed acquisition of NaviCorp Ltd by Uniphar PLC having concluded that the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the markets for:
- The provision of buying group services in the State and
- The provision of common management and branding services in the State
The transaction was originally notified to the CCPC in December 2021. In April 2022, the CCPC decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition and subsequently issued an assessment to the parties in September 2022.
This is the first merger to have been prohibited under the Competiton Act, 2002, as amended, since the CCPC’s predecessor, the Competition Authority prohibited Kerry Groups acquisition of Breeo Foods in 2008. That decision was subsequently overturned following an appeal to the High Court.