September 18, 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.

Google challenges record EU antitrust fine in court.  Google appealed on Monday against a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9 billion) EU antitrust fine, with its chances of success boosted by Intel’s partial victory last week against another EU sanction.  The world’s most popular Internet search engine, a unit of the U.S. firm Alphabet, launched its appeal two months after it was fined by the European Commission for abusing its dominance in Europe by giving prominent placement in searches to its comparison shopping service and demoting rival offerings.  The Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second-highest, is expected to take several years before ruling on the appeal.

Murdoch Bid for Sky Control Hits New Bump as U.K. Official Hints at Inquiry.  Britain’s culture minister said on Tuesday that she was inclined to ask the country’s competition regulator to carry out a detailed review of a bid by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to take full control of the British satellite television giant Sky.  In an address to Parliament, the minister, Karen Bradley, said she was “minded” to refer the $15 billion deal to the Competition and Markets Authority for a more intensive inquiry into concerns about whether Fox would uphold broadcast standards in Britain and whether owning all of Sky would give it too much control of the British media.

FTC Head Pushes Back on Calls to Expand Antitrust Law.  Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen is emerging as a vocal defender of existing U.S. antitrust laws amid calls for sweeping changes to rein in dominant technology companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.  Ohlhausen is delivering speeches this week that reinforce the government’s decades-old antitrust enforcement approach, which focuses strictly on markets and prices.  She is pushing back against public pressure to stop companies from becoming too powerful or to address social problems like wage stagnation.

Exclusive: AT&T weighs divestiture of Latin American TV assets – sources.  AT&T is evaluating a sale of its pay TV operations in Latin America as it seeks to pay down debt following its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. (TWX.N), people familiar with the matter said on Friday.  AT&T is working with a financial adviser to field interest in the assets, which could be valued at more than $8 billion, the people added, asking not to be named because the matter is private.  Liberty Global PLC, Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica SA and Millicom International Cellular SA,  a wireless player in Latin America, are some of the companies that could express interest in all or parts of AT&T’s Latin American markets, according to the people.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    September 11, 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.

    EU regulators halt review of Qualcomm-NXP deal for second time.  EU antitrust regulators have halted for a second time their review of U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm’s $38-billion bid for NXP Semiconductors after the companies failed to provide key details of the deal.  The European Commission paused its investigation on Aug. 17, a filing on its website showed.  It had previously set a Dec. 6 deadline for its decision.  “Once the missing information is supplied by the parties, the clock is re-started and the deadline for the Commission’s decision is then adjusted accordingly,” EU competition regulators said in an email.

    EU Top Court Orders Reexamination of Intel Antitrust Fine.  The European Union’s top court on Wednesday sent back a case on a billion euro fine against chip maker Intel Corp. for further legal examination.  Wednesday’s ruling had been eagerly awaited for its implications on the powers of the antitrust office of the EU.  Now the case could be in limbo for months, if not years.

    Apple lawsuits against Qualcomm can proceed, U.S. judge rules.  Apple Inc.’s 11 foreign lawsuits against Qualcomm Inc. can proceed while the company’s dispute plays out in the United States, a U.S. federal judge in San Diego ruled.  Qualcomm and Apple are facing off in federal court over Qualcomm’s licensing for modem chips, which provide mobile data connectivity to devices like the iPhone.  Because those chips have become a standard across the mobile phone industry, Qualcomm is required to license them on fair terms.

    Trump’s antitrust pick meets with Elizabeth Warren: source.  Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, met on Wednesday with President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, where she pressed him on political interference in antitrust and lobbying, according to a source familiar with the discussions.  The source did not say if the meeting was sufficient to convince Warren to support Makan Delrahim.  She has reportedly put a “hold” on his confirmation to be assistant attorney general.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      September 5, 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.

      Landmark Intel judgment critical for other EU antitrust cases.  Europe’s top court will rule on Wednesday whether U.S. chipmaker Intel offered illegal rebates to squeeze out rivals in a judgment that could affect EU antitrust regulators’ cases against Qualcomm and Alphabet’s Google.  The ruling by the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union could also provide more clarity on whether rebates are anti-competitive by nature or whether enforcers need to prove the anti-competitive effect.  The European Commission in a 2009 decision said that Intel tried to thwart rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to PC makers Dell, Hewlett Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from the company.

      Alphabet’s Google acts to comply with EU antitrust order.  Google has submitted details of how it plans to stop favoring its shopping service to comply with a European Union antitrust order, according to EU regulators.  The world’s most popular Internet search engine, a unit of Alphabet Inc., had earlier said it would meet the EU deadline to do so.  Google was hit with a record 2.4 billion euro fine from the EU over the practice in June and was ordered to come up with proposals to end the anti-competitive behavior.

      Linde, Praxair Get Second Antitrust Request From FTC.  Linde and Praxair said they were responding to a second request from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission regarding their planned $74 billion merger and were in a pre-notification phase with the European Commission.  The German and U.S. industrial gases groups said in a U.S. regulatory filing they still expected the all-share merger of equals, which is subject to antitrust review in approximately 24 jurisdictions, to close in the second half of 2018.  “This is a typical step in review of a transaction of this size, and was expected,” Linde said of the second request from the FTC.

      German carmakers may face ‘very high’ cartel fines: EU’s Vestager.  German carmakers could face “very high” fines if suspicions of collusion prove true in court, European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Business Insider.  But she said it was too soon to speculate on “the extent of possible sanctions and the timing of an EU Commission decision”, the online business news site cited her as saying.  European Union and German antitrust regulators are investigating whether VW, Porsche, Audi. BMW and Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler held meetings to discuss suppliers, prices and standards to the disadvantage of foreign carmakers.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        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

          August 21, 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.

          Deutsche Bank, Bank of America settle agency bond rigging lawsuits.  Deutsche Bank AG and Bank of America Corp agreed to pay a combined $65.5 million to settle investor litigation accusing large banks of rigging the roughly $9 trillion government agency bond market over a decade.  Preliminary settlements totaling $48.5 million for Deutsche Bank and $17 million for Bank of America were filed on Thursday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and require a judge’s approval.  The settlements were the first in litigation accusing 10 banks of engaging in a “brazen conspiracy” to rig the market for U.S. dollar-denominated supranational, sub-sovereign and agency bonds, court papers show.

          Slim’s America Movil Wins Telecom Battle in Top Mexico Court.  Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled billionaire Carlos Slim’s telecommunications company America Movil should not be barred by law from charging competitors certain fees, prompting fears of a rollback of a sweeping antitrust reform.  The 2014 telecom industry reform, one of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s signature accomplishments, prohibited America Movil from charging other carriers for calls made to customers on its network, even though those firms are allowed to bill America Movil for using their networks.

          U.S. Pension Funds Sue Goldman, JPMorgan, Others Over Stock Lending Market.  Three U.S. pension funds sued six of the world’s largest banks on Thursday, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JP Morgan Chase & Co, accusing them of conspiring to stifle competition in the more than $1 trillion stock lending market. In the lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court, the funds accused the banks of boycotting start-up lending platforms by threatening and intimidating their potential clients. The defendants include Bank of America Corp, Credit Suisse AG, Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, Goldman and JP Morgan.

          Air Berlin assets to go to more than one buyer: German government official.  A senior German government official was quoted as saying on Thursday that the assets of insolvent Air Berlin could not be bought by any one competitor due to regulatory reasons.  “It is quite clear that there won’t be a takeover of Air Berlin by a single airline,” Deputy Economy Minister Matthias Machnig told German media group Funke.  “This is necessary and correct for antitrust and competitive reasons,” he added.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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