June 11, 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. antitrust official says worries over limiting vertical deals ‘misplaced’.  A top antitrust official at the U.S. Justice Department attempted to reassure investors on Thursday that worries that regulators would crack down on proposed combinations of two companies on a supply chain — known as vertical mergers — were overblown.  Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, said that most proposed transactions were either good for consumers or neutral.  But the department’s decision in November to sue to stop AT&T Inc, which owns DirecTV, from buying Time Warner Inc. made investors question whether other vertical deals might also meet with skepticism from antitrust enforcers.

Exclusive: U.S. Justice Department probes T-Mobile-Sprint merger effect on smaller wireless companies – sources.  The U.S. Department of Justice is examining how the proposed merger between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. could affect prices for smaller wireless operators, according to two people familiar with the matter.  A T-Mobile and Sprint merger would eliminate competition between the two carriers that have been the dominant players in selling network access to wireless companies that often serve pre-paid or price-conscious consumers, and could lead to higher prices for those users.  The Justice Department, which is evaluating T-Mobile’s $26 billion deal to buy Sprint, has been speaking with small wireless operators that buy access to the major wireless networks at wholesale rates, and is seeking their opinions about the merger, the people said, who declined to be named because the talks are confidential.

Comcast to Win Unconditional EU Okay for Sky Bid: Sources.  U.S. cable company Comcast is set to gain unconditional EU antitrust approval for its bid to buy European pay-TV company Sky, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday. The world’s biggest entertainment company is battling Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox for Sky.  The media mogul bid’s to buy all of Sky has been delayed by politicians and regulators worried about the power of the enlarged media group. The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on Comcast’s offer by June 15, did not respond to a request for comment by email. It cleared without conditions Fox’s bid for Sky in April last year.

Google Faces EU Antitrust Fine Over Android Case in July: Sources.  Google is expected to be hit with a second EU antitrust fine in mid-July for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals, three people familiar with the matter said.  The European Commission, which has been investigating the case involving the unit of Alphabet since 2015, could issue its decision in the week of July 9, although the timing might change.  As a deterrent to others, the EU penalty is likely to top the record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.8 billion) fine handed out to Google last year for unfairly favoring its shopping service, sources told Reuters last year.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    May 29, 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 official sees more scrutiny for Facebook, others.  Facebook and other tech giants may attract more regulatory scrutiny in future because of their market power, a senior EU antitrust official said. Tommaso Valletti, chief economist at the European Commission’s competition unit, rejected calls by some – especially in the United States – for regulators to adopt a hands-off approach to avoid stifling innovation. Unlike internet search engine Google which has been in the EU antitrust crosshairs for close to a decade, Facebook has not drawn the attention of the Commission, the world’s most aggressive competition enforcer.

    U.S. Senate panel to hold hearing on Sprint T-Mobile merger.  A U.S. Senate committee plans to hold a hearing on June 27 on the proposed $26.5 billion merger of U.S. wireless carriers T-Mobile US and Sprint Corp. No witnesses have been announced for the hearing to be held by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues announced on Wednesday. However T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure met with the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month to tout the proposed tie-up and are likely to testify, officials said.

    Yelp seeks to revive EU antitrust complaint against Google.  Yelp Inc said it has renewed a European antitrust complaint against Alphabet Inc’s Google, seeking to gain traction on a longstanding accusation that the search giant unfairly promotes its own services in results. A similar complaint Yelp filed in 2014 has not led the European Union to issue a formal charge against Google, nor have letters and testimony to U.S. regulators led to charges. But the company said it has strengthened its complaint by looking at the EU’s ruling last year that Google misused its dominance in product shopping search results. Google, which is appealing a $2.9-billion fine in that case, declined to comment.

    E.U. Settles With Russia’s Gazprom Over Antitrust Charges.  The European Commission said on Thursday that it had reached a settlement with Gazprom, finally concluding a long-running antitrust investigation into the Russian energy giant’s dominance in regional gas markets. Officials in Brussels said the company had accepted a series of concessions, but unlike with competition inquiries into other companies like Google and Intel, it declined to issue any financial penalties. That provoked criticism in countries like Poland, which say they have been squeezed by the energy company in the past, and fear that the deal between Gazprom and the European Commission does not go far enough to prevent similar behavior in the future.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, 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

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