May 14, 2018

The Antitrust Week In Review

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

EU antitrust regulators to rule on Comcast, sky deal by June 15.  EU antitrust regulators will rule on U.S. cable operator Comcast’s 22-billion-pound ($30 billion) bid for British pay-TV company Sky by June 15, the European Commission said on Tuesday.  The world’s biggest entertainment company is competing with Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox to win over Sky. Fox has run into various stumbling blocks since agreeing to a Sky takeover in December 2016.

Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Seattle Rideshare Law.  A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize.  The city’s 2015 measure requires companies that hire or contract with drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based services to bargain with them on issues such as pay and working conditions if a majority show they want to be represented.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously said the measure is subject to challenge under federal antitrust law, and it sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle to determine whether the measure is, in fact, impermissible.

Democratic lawmakers express ‘serious concerns’ about T-Mobile purchase of Sprint.  Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic lawmakers have expressed “serious concerns” about T-Mobile US, Inc.’s plan to buy rival Sprint Corp, focusing on the planned deal’s effect on lower-cost wireless plans, Klobuchar’s office said in a press statement.  “T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited text, voice, and data plans,” the lawmakers wrote.  While AT&T and Verizon dominate the U.S. wireless market overall, T-Mobile is the most popular among customers who make less than $75,000 per year, and Sprint’s prepaid brand Boost counts 83 percent of its users in that income range, according to data from Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

Microchip says can’t confirm reports on China approval of Microsemi deal.  Microchip Technology Inc. said it cannot confirm media reports that the Chinese government has approved its $8.35 billion bid to buy Microsemi Corp.  “We cannot confirm today’s report in the press that China’s MOFCOM has cleared the transaction,” the company told Reuters in an email.  Microchip said it believes the deal review process is running smoothly, and it remained optimistic that it will shortly get clearance from China’s Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom). Mofcom approval is seen as the major hurdle for the deal, which has already received antitrust clearance in the United States.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

    May 7, 2018

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Sprint, T-Mobile Have to Sell $26.5B Deal to Antitrust Cops.  To gain approval for their $26.5 billion merger agreement, T-Mobile and Sprint aim to convince antitrust regulators that there is plenty of competition for wireless service beyond Verizon and AT&T.  The deal announced Sunday would combine the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and bulk them up to a similar size to Verizon and AT&T, the industry giants.  But the companies argued that the combination would allow them to better compete not only with those two rivals but also with Comcast and others as the wireless, broadband and video industries converge.

    EU considers using algorithms to detect anti-competitive acts.  EU regulators may set up their own algorithms to find companies that use software to fix prices with peers or squeeze out their rivals, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Friday.  The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager underline the unease among policy enforcers about technologically-advanced tools such as computer algorithms that make it easier for companies to collude without any formal agreement or even human interaction.  The European Commission’s inquiry into e-commerce last year, for example, found that two-thirds of retailers use algorithms to track their competitors’ prices.

    Would AT&T’s Time Warner Deal Help or Hurt Consumers?  Judge Will Now Decide.  Lawyers faced off over the future of AT&T’s $85.4 billion blockbuster merger with Time Warner for a final time in a courtroom, sparring over what the deal would mean to consumers.  The Justice Department, which sued to block the deal, argued that the merger would cost people millions of dollars a year by limiting competition.  If the judge does approve the deal, the government said, the court should force the companies to sell off certain business lines to protect consumers.  But the companies countered that the government had failed to make its case.

    UTC gains EU antitrust approval to buy Rockwell Collins.  U.S. aerospace and industrial company United Technologies Corp secured conditional EU approval on Friday for its $23 billion bid for avionics maker Rockwell Collins, the largest aerospace deal in history.  The European Commission, which acts as the competition watchdog in the European Union, said UTC agreed to sell businesses making actuators, pilot controls, ice protection and oxygen systems.  The European Commission said concessions offered by UTC addressed its concerns about the deal, confirming a Reuters report on May 2.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      April 30, 2018

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

      U.S.-China trade fight reaches top American court in antitrust case.  President Donald Trump’s trade fight with China moved inside the white marble walls of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, where lawyers for both countries faced off over whether Chinese companies can be held liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws.  The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by two American companies of a lower court ruling that threw out price-fixing claims against two Chinese vitamin C manufacturers based on submissions by China’s government explaining that nation’s regulations.  Many of the justices signaled skepticism toward that ruling.  The arguments gave both countries a chance to air their differences over an aspect of their trade relationship.

      Apple’s Deal for Shazam Is Delayed in Europe Over Data Concerns.  If data is the most valuable currency of the digital economy, at what point does a company have so much that it becomes unfair?  That’s a question antitrust experts are increasingly asking themselves as the world’s biggest technology companies harvest more and more information about people and businesses.  Last week, European regulators pushed the idea forward, announcing an investigation into Apple’s proposed acquisition of the song-identification app Shazam over concerns the iPhone maker would get access to data on competitors like Spotify.

      U.S. to seek court approval to terminate ‘outdated’ antitrust judgments.  The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it plans to seek court approval to terminate “outdated” antitrust judgments that remain on the books throughout the United States.  The government said there are nearly 1,300 “legacy” judgments remaining on the books of its Antitrust Division, and nearly all likely remain open in U.S. courts.  The Justice Department said the “majority of these judgments no longer protect competition because of changes in industry conditions, changes in economics, changes in law, or for other reasons.”

      EU antitrust regulators to investigate metal packaging cartel case.  EU antitrust regulators have taken over an investigation into a suspected cartel of metal packaging companies from the German cartel agency because the illegal activity took place in several EU countries and not just in Germany.  The Bundeskartellamt raided several companies in March 2015 following a tip-off, targeting makers of tin and aluminium cans used for food and chemicals, as well as manufacturers of vacuum seals for jars.  The German watchdog said on Friday it had handed over the case to the European Commission because the alleged cartel affected other EU countries in addition to Germany.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 23, 2018

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

        DOJ Looks Into How AT&T, Verizon Handle Defecting Customers. The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into whether AT&T, Verizon and a standards-setting group worked together to stop consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. The companies confirmed the inquiry in separate statements late Friday in response to a report in The New York Times. The U.S. government is looking into whether AT&T, Verizon and telecommunications standards organization GSMA worked together to suppress a technology that lets people remotely switch wireless companies without having to insert a new SIM card into their phones.

        EU antitrust chief says investigation of Google’s Android, AdSense is advancing. Investigations into how Google may be using its Android smartphone operating system and its AdSense advertising service to thwart rivals are advancing, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday, amid concern about the lengthy proceedings. The European Commission opened its investigation into Android in 2015, following a complaint two years earlier from the lobbying group FairSearch. A 2016 document seen by Reuters said the EU competition enforcer planned to levy a large fine against the company and would order it to stop giving revenue-sharing payments to smartphone makers to pre-install only Google Search.

        Time Warner C.E.O. Testifies That AT&T Merger Is Needed to Battle Silicon Valley. Time Warner’s chief executive, Jeffrey Bewkes, vigorously defended his company’s $85.4 billion merger with AT&T on Wednesday, saying the deal was necessary to confront “tectonic changes” in entertainment caused by internet competitors like Netflix and Amazon. Mr. Bewkes was the first top executive from Time Warner and AT&T to take the stand in federal court to argue against the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the merger. The Justice Department had sued to stop the blockbuster deal in November, arguing that a union of the two companies would harm consumers and weaken competition.

        Fox chose Disney over Comcast on regulatory, stock fears: filing. Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, which agreed in December to sell most of its assets to Walt Disney Co for $52.4 billion, had previously rejected a bid from Comcast Corp over concerns about the regulatory risks and its stock value, a regulatory filing on Wednesday showed. The joint filing by Disney and Fox, which outlines the timeline of their negotiations, offers the most detailed insight yet into Fox’s thinking, as it goes head-to-head against Comcast, a U.S. cable operator, in its bid to acquire European pay-TV company Sky Plc, in which Fox holds a 39 percent stake. Comcast announced in February it was working on a $31 billion bid that would top Fox’s deal for Sky. It has not made a new attempt to bid for the Fox assets after the Disney deal, so investors are keen for information on the hurdles that prevented an agreement between Fox and Comcast.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues, Uncategorized

          April 16, 2018

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

          EU carries out antitrust raid at firms dealing with sports media rights.  EU investigators carried out unannounced inspections on Tuesday at the offices of firms linked to the broadcasting of sports events in several member states over concerns they may have violated EU antitrust rules, the European Commission said.  It said the Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.  “Officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting,” the Commission said in a statement.

          Google poised to emerge unscathed from European antitrust crackdown.  The European Union’s top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, has made it her mission to stem alleged anti-competitive abuses by big American tech companies, threatening as recently as last month to break up Alphabet Inc.’s Google.  But a decision in the most important of three antitrust cases against Google – this one aimed at loosening its stranglehold over Android-powered smartphones – is likely to show just how difficult it is, even for a committed trust-buster like Vestager, to dent the power of the U.S. giants.  The final ruling, expected within the next few months, will likely involve a multi-billion-dollar fine and an end to clauses in licensing agreements that stop smartphone vendors from promoting alternatives to apps such as Google Search and Maps, people familiar with the European Commission’s thinking say.

          European Authorities Raid Offices of 21st Century Fox Unit.  European authorities raided the London offices of a unit of 21st Century Fox on Tuesday as part of an antitrust investigation into the distribution of sports programming.  The search at Fox Networks Group was one of several the European Commission said it had conducted across Europe as part of an investigation into potential violations of rules prohibiting price-fixing cartels.  The investigation adds to the regulatory challenges that 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch’s media giant, is facing in Europe, where officials have held up its bid to take full control of the British satellite broadcaster Sky.

          Bayer shares jump on report of U.S. antitrust deal on Monsanto.  Bayer shares jumped nearly 5 percent on Tuesday following a media report that the U.S. Justice Department will allow the German drugs and pesticides group to acquire Monsanto in a $62.5 billion deal.  The Justice Department reached an agreement in principle with Bayer and Monsanto in recent days after the companies agreed to sell more assets, the Wall Street Journal said late on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.  Under the deal, Bayer agreed to sell additional seed and treatment assets to BASF and agreed to make concessions related to digital agriculture, it said.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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