August 28, 2017

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

EU starts in-depth probe of Bayer, Monsanto deal.  The European Commission has started an in-depth investigation of Bayer’s planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets.  The deal would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the Commission said, adding this limited the number of competitors selling herbicides and seeds in Europe.  “The Commission has preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition in a number of different markets resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice and less innovation,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Clears Last Two Major Hurdles.  Amazon’s bid to become a bigger player in the grocery business took a major step forward Wednesday, as federal antitrust regulators approved the internet company’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market.  And earlier in the day, Whole Foods shareholders voted to approve the $13.4 billion deal, which will give Amazon a major bricks-and-mortar presence with more than 460 stores in a huge retail category where success has eluded the company.  The Federal Trade Commission, which was handling the federal review of the deal, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the agency had concluded that the deal would not harm competition.

Australian antitrust regulator clears Murdoch to buy Ten Network.  Australia’s antitrust regulator cleared on Thursday a consortium led by News Corp Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch to buy free-to-air television broadcaster Ten Network Holdings Ltd, saying the move would not harm competition.  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims said that while the deal would reduce diversity of opinion in a market already dominated by a handful of companies including News, it would not “substantially lessen competition.”  The Australian government has proposed liberalizing media ownership laws including removing the so-called “two out of three” rule, which prevents a single party from owning print, radio and television assets in the same market.

Deal-Making Is Alive and Well, but the Market Is Changing.  The urge to merge is alive and well.  Companies are tying the knot, unperturbed by persistent doubts surrounding the Trump administration and Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union.  An absence of organic growth and ready access to low-cost debt are sending them down the aisle in record numbers.  But an array of forces, like takeover rules, antitrust reviews and industrial policy, are helping to break up the party.

Categories: Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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