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 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

      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 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 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

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