June 18, 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.

AT&T Antitrust Win May Herald New Wave of Media Mergers.  Brace yourself for a likely new era of media megamergers. AT&T’s victory over the government’s attempt to block its $85 billion takeover of Time Warner underscores just how much the way people watch — and pay for — TV has changed. It also highlights how corporate America wants to adapt to deal with its new environment. In short: Bigger is better.

Trump gets win at U.S. Supreme Court in China antitrust case.  The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration and against China on Thursday on a disputed aspect of their fraught trade relationship, throwing out a lower court ruling that had allowed two Chinese vitamin C makers to escape $148 million in damages for violating American antitrust law. In a case that brought the trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies before the top U.S. court, the justices ruled 9-0 that the lower court gave too much deference to Chinese government filings explaining China’s regulatory policy. The justices sent the case back for reconsideration by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2016 threw out the damages won by two American companies that buy vitamin C.

Comcast’s Pursuit of Fox Will Face Hurdles, Despite AT&T’s Victory.  In the coming days, Comcast will most likely unveil its takeover bid for most of 21st Century Fox, challenging The Walt Disney Company for the same Fox entertainment assets. Fox had turned down Comcast last year, worried that the cable giant’s bid — even though it was much higher than Disney’s — could be blocked by regulators. But that concern was lessened on Tuesday afternoon when a federal judge approved AT&T’s $85.4 billion deal for Time Warner. While AT&T’s victory over the Justice Department means that Comcast now faces fewer regulatory issues in its pursuit of Fox, obstacles remain.

Apple, Qualcomm battle over possible ban on some U.S. iPhone imports.  The staff of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday recommended that a trade judge find that Apple Inc. infringed at least one of Qualcomm Inc.’s patents, a move that could lead to blocking the import of some iPhones. The San Diego chipmaker filed a complaint against Apple nearly a year ago, asking the commission to ban the import of iPhones containing rival chipmaker Intel Corp.’s so-called modem chips, which help mobile phones connect to wireless data networks. At a trial in Washington that started on Friday, the ITC staff said Apple violated one of Qualcomm’s patents around battery-saving technology.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    June 4, 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.

    Top U.S. antitrust official uncertain of need for four wireless carriers.  The head of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, declined on Friday to support the Obama administration’s firm backing of the need for four U.S. wireless carriers. Asked about T-Mobile’s plan to buy Sprint for $26 billion, Delrahim declined to reiterate the view of President Barack Obama’s enforcers, who had said that four wireless carriers were needed. Instead, Delrahim told reporters, “I don’t think there’s any magical number that I’m smart enough to glean.”

    Japan’s Maruyasu agrees to plead guilty in U.S. to bid rigging, other charges dropped.  Japan’s Maruyasu Industries Co Ltd has agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of bid rigging, while other charges filed against it by the U.S. Justice Department were dropped, the company said on Thursday. The company was indicted in Ohio in 2016 on charges of rigging bids for steel tubes that automakers use in fuel distribution, braking and other parts of their cars. The indictments arose from a long-running international antitrust investigation of price fixing in the auto parts industry that has ensnared more than 40 companies and 60 people.

    No antitrust probe for Lufthansa over fares after Air Berlin collapse.  Lufthansa will not be investigated for market abuse over rising ticket prices following the collapse of local rival Air Berli, the German cartel office said on Tuesday. The watchdog had received complaints over high ticket prices and had been looking into the matter with a view to decide whether to instigate a full investigation. Air Berlin collapsed in October last year, leaving Lufthansa with a monopoly on some German domestic routes for a few months.

    Bayer Wins Approval to Buy U.S. Seed and Agrichemical Giant Monsanto.  Bayer won U.S. antitrust approval for its planned takeover of Monsanto on Tuesday on condition that it sell about $9 billion (6.8 billion pounds) in assets, the Justice Department said, clearing a major hurdle for the $62.5 billion deal.

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    Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      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

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