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.

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Categories: Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

    July 10, 2017

    The Antitrust Week In Review

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

    Exclusive: EU considers record fine as panel checks Google Android case – sources.  EU antitrust regulators are weighing another record fine against Google over its Android mobile operating system and have set up a panel of experts to give a second opinion on the case, two people familiar with the matter said.  Assuming the panel agrees with the initial case team’s conclusions, it could pave the way for the European Commission to issue a decision against Alphabet’s Google by the end of the year.  The Commission in April last year charged Google with using its dominant Android mobile operating system to shut out rivals following a complaint by lobby group FairSearch, U.S.-based ad-blocking and privacy firm Disconnect Inc., Portuguese apps store Aptoide and Russia’s Yandex.

    Antitrust Regulators Sign Off on Cabela’s Sale to Bass Pro.  U.S. antitrust regulators have ended their investigation into Bass Pro Shops’ $4 billion deal to buy Cabela’s, Cabela’s said Wednesday.  The Nebraska-based chain said the Federal Trade Commission signed off on the deal earlier this week, but banking regulators still haven’t approved one part of the transaction.

    Trump missing chance to steer antitrust as key FTC slots go unfilled.  The White House is passing up a chance to steer policy on everything from mergers to advertising as it delays choosing from three front-runners to name a permanent chair for the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC, which shares the work of antitrust enforcement with the Justice Department and pursues companies accused of deceptive advertising, is currently headed by acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who was named on Jan. 25.

    Broadcom wins U.S. antitrust consent to buy Brocade: FTC.  Chipmaker Broadcom Limited has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Brocade Communications Systems, the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.  The $5.5 billion deal, which already has won approval in Europe and Japan, is the latest in the chip industry as companies bulk up in response to growing demand for chips in connected devices and cars.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

      May 15, 2017

      The Antitrust Week In Review

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

      Anthem Gives Up Cigna Bid, Vows to Fight on Over Damages.  Anthem has ended its soured, $48 billion bid to buy rival Cigna, but the nation’s second-largest health insurer isn’t giving up a fight over whether Cigna deserves a termination fee for the scrapped deal.  Anthem said Friday that Cigna sabotaged the merger agreement and caused “massive damages” for Anthem, which provides Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage in several states.  Indianapolis-based Anthem announced its decision a day after a Delaware judge refused its request to extend a ban blocking Cigna from pulling out of the deal.  The deal, announced in 2015, had already been rejected by a federal judge and an appeals court after antitrust regulators sued last summer to stop it. Anthem Inc. said last week that it would seek a Supreme Court review of the case.

      EU to Launch More E-commerce Antitrust Investigations.  The European Union plans to launch more antitrust investigations into e-commerce companies after a two-year inquiry uncovered business practices that restrict competition, the European Commission said on Wednesday.  In its report on the initial inquiry, the EU executive said it had found an increased use of contractual restrictions to control product distribution, which could be in breach of EU antitrust rules.  “Certain practices by companies in e-commerce markets may restrict competition by unduly limiting how products are distributed throughout the EU,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

      Bumble Bee Foods Fined $25 Million, Admits Price Fixing.  Tuna-canning company Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to pay a $25 million fine after pleading guilty to conspiring with competitors to fix prices, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.  The San Diego-based company will also cooperate with an ongoing antitrust investigation into the packaged seafood industry, the federal agency said.  The fine will increase to $81.5 million if the company is sold.  The criminal charge reflects broader concerns about competition within the industry.

      Trump U.S. Antitrust Nominee Says will be Independent of White House.  Makan Delrahim, who was chosen by President Donald Trump to be the top U.S. antitrust regulator, said on Wednesday that he would maintain independence from the White House in enforcing antitrust law.  The Senate must still vote to confirm Delrahim.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        May 1, 2017

        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. Appeals Court Blocks Anthem Bid to Merge with Rival Cigna.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday blocked health insurer Anthem Inc.’s bid to merge with Cigna, upholding a lower court’s decision that the $54 billion deal should not be allowed because it would lead to higher prices for healthcare.  The ruling will probably kill the proposed merger, which was opposed by the U.S. Justice Department, 11 states and a District Court judge after consumers, medical professionals and others objected to it.  In the end, Cigna itself tried to back out.  Still, Anthem and Cigna have the option of trying to save the deal by asking the appeals court to re-consider the case or appealing straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

        How Trump’s Pick for Top Antitrust Cop May Shape Competition.  Makan Delrahim, the nominee for chief antitrust cop at the Justice Department, was 10 when his family immigrated to the United States from Iran as Jewish political refugees.  Unable to speak English, he struggled to keep up in school. He worked afternoons and weekends at his father’s gas station near Los Angeles until college.  As a young Senate staff member years later, Mr. Delrahim found those early experiences had laid the foundation for his conservative views.

        Sanofi Files U.S. Antitrust Lawsuit Against Mylan Over EpiPen.  France’s Sanofi SA on Monday sued Mylan NV, accusing the pharmaceutical company of engaging in illegal conduct to squelch competition to its EpiPen allergy treatment, which has been at the center of a public debate over drug prices.  In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, Sanofi said Mylan caused it to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in sales by erecting barriers to U.S. consumers’ access to and use of a rival product, Auvi-Q.  In particular, Sanofi said Mylan offered rebates to insurers, pharmaceutical benefit managers and state Medicaid agencies conditioned on Auvi-Q not being an epinephrine auto-injector device they would reimburse for use by consumers.

        FTC Allows Sycamore to Sell Family Dollar Stores to Dollar General.  The Federal Trade Commission gave a private equity firm approval on Thursday to sell to Dollar General Corp 323 stores that Sycamore purchased as part of a divestiture package two years ago, the agency said on Thursday.  Sycamore Partners II, LP bought the stores in 2015 when Dollar Tree was forced to sell shops in 35 states to win antitrust approval to buy the Family Dollar chain in what was then a $9.2 billion deal.  Sycamore, which had created Dollar Express LLC to run the business, asked the FTC to approve the stores’ transfer to competitor Dollar General (DG.N) in March and said in a document filed with the FTC that the chain could “no longer viably operate as a standalone business.”

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, General, Uncategorized

          April 17, 2017

          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. telecoms industry set for M&A negotiations frenzy.  In 10 days, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will lift a ban on telecoms companies engaging in merger talks, and Wall Street is betting on T-Mobile US Inc., Sprint Corp and Dish Network Corp to be the first ones out of the gate.  Shares of these companies have soared over the past 12 months on expectations of deal talks, and are trading at up to 31 times forward earnings, versus the S&P 500 telecom services index’s .5SP50 18 times.  The rich valuations could discourage acquirers, who also have to assume the risk that antitrust regulators may look askance at more consolidation in the sector after a wave of mergers in recent years, investment bankers and industry experts say.

          Antitrust Agencies Say Alaska Health Policy Stifles Competition.  Federal antitrust officials on April 12 urged Alaska lawmakers to repeal the state’s program requiring health-care providers to obtain state approval before expanding.  At the request of a state lawmaker, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission weighed in, saying the restrictions can harm competition by limiting the availability of new health care services.  Alaska Sen. David Wilson (R) is sponsoring legislation to repeal the program.

          Maersk Wins Conditional EU Approval for Hamburg Sud Takeover.  World No. 1 shipping company Maersk Line gained EU antitrust approval on Monday for its acquisition of Hamburg Sud (HSDG) after agreeing to pull the German company out from five consortia on trade routes to address competition concerns.  The bid by Maersk, part of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, underscores the wave of mergers in an industry struggling with over-capacity and slowing global trade.

          Siemens, Bombardier Vie for Control of Rail Joint Venture-Sources.  Talks about uniting the rail operations of Germany’s Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier are being complicated by the desire of both companies to keep control of a merged business, two people close to the matter said on Wednesday.  Antitrust issues and political considerations could also ultimately make a deal to create a company with combined sales of $16 billion hard to pull off, industry experts said.  The two groups are talking about a joint venture that could compete better with Chinese state-backed market leader CRRC, which is expanding aggressively abroad and would still be twice their combined size by revenue.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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