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European Commission Announces New Approach to Merger Review Referrals Falling Below Thresholds

Under current EU merger control rules, whether a concentration has to be notified to the European Commission (“Commission”) depends, among other things, on the level of revenue generated by the parties worldwide and in the European Union.  A key question that has sparked considerable debate in recent years is whether the current merger control thresholds cover all transactions that have the potential to harm competition, or whether there is a so-called “enforcement gap”. On September 11, during the International Bar Association’s 24th Annual Competition Conference, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced that the Commission intends to change its approach towards referrals to the EU from national competition authorities. Commissioner Vestager noted that although the current, revenue-based thresholds set out in the EU Merger Regulation generally work well, revenue does not always reflect a company’s significance – particularly in innovative...

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COVID-19 and EU Competition Proceedings: Extraordinary Times Call for Extraordinary Measures

In the midst of the ongoing global effort to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, the Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) of the European Commission (EC) and the EU courts are taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus among individuals whilst at the same time seeking to ensure that the EU economy remains as stable as possible. The situation remains highly fluid for the foreseeable future. Companies are therefore urged to stay abreast of the continually changing measures being taken. WHAT HAPPENED EC Staff working on “non-essential” projects are working remotely from home. However, officials who hold “critical” functions, such as the Commissioner, the Director-General and Heads of Unit, will generally be present at DG Competition, although working on a shift basis. In-person meetings will be replaced by video conferences going forward. DG Competition staff who are dealing with the provision of State aid exemptions during the crisis are...

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EU Competition Commissioner Vestager Nominated for a Second Term – a Tale of Two Hats

What Happened: On 10 September 2019, European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen nominated Margrethe Vestager as Competition Commissioner for a second consecutive term. As part of a structural shake-up of the Commission, involving the institution of eight Vice-Presidents, three of whom will be “Executive Vice Presidents”, she will additionally serve as “Executive Vice President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age”. As head of the competition portfolio Ms. Vestager will be supported by DG-Comp. As chief coordinator of the digital portfolio she will be supported by the Commission’s Secretariat-General. With respect to the latter role in particular, Ms. Vestager will be charged with ensuring that “Europe fully grasps the potential of the digital age and strengthens its industry and innovation capacity” and will be responsible for specific initiatives including new laws governing digital platforms and a potential tax on digital companies. Subject to...

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Annual EU Competition Review 2018

McDermott’s Annual EU Competition Review summarizes key developments in EU competition rules. During the previous year, several new regulations, notices and guidelines were issued by the European Commission. There were also many interesting cases decided by the General Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union. All these new rules and judicial decisions may be relevant for your company and your day-to-day practice. In our super-connected age, we can be inundated by information from numerous sources and it is difficult to select what is really relevant to one’s business. The purpose of this review is to help general counsel and their teams to be aware of the essential updates. This review was prepared by the Firm’s European Competition Team in Brussels, Paris and Germany. Access the full report.

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Three Things To Know About French Merger Control

Jurisdictional thresholds French merger control applies if the turnovers of the parties to a transaction (usually the acquirer(s) including its (their) group(s) of companies, and the target) exceeded, in the last financial year, certain (cumulative) thresholds provided in Article L. 430-2, I of the French Commercial Code (the “Code”): Combined worldwide pre-tax turnover of all concerned parties > €150 million; and French turnover achieved by at least two parties individually > €50 million euros; and The transaction is not caught by the EU Merger Regulation. Specific (and lower) thresholds exist for mergers in the retail sector or in French overseas departments or communities[1]. In the situation of an acquisition of joint control, a transaction can be notifiable where each of the acquirers meets the thresholds even if the target has no presence or turnover in France. There is no exception applicable to foreign-to-foreign transactions. Acquisitions of...

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Five Things To Know About German Merger Control

As reported previously, German competition law was recently amended. The amendments included with the introduction of a “size of transaction”-threshold a notable change with respect to German merger control. The following is a reminder of five important features of German merger control which you should be aware of: The jurisdictional thresholds of German merger control are easily triggered German merger control applies if the parties to a transaction (usually the acquirer and the target) exceeded, in the last financial year, certain turnover thresholds. In an interna­tional context, these thresholds are relatively low and easily triggered: Joint worldwide turnover of all parties > € 500 million, and German turnover of at least one party > € 25 million, and German turnover of another party > € 5 million. There is a new “size of transaction”-threshold Since June 2017, German merger control can also be triggered if a newly introduced “size of...

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Reform of German Competition Law

A number of amendments to the German competition law (Amendment) entered into force on 9 June 2017. The key changes are: Merger control: Introduction of a new “size of transaction”-threshold Sanctions for antitrust law infringements: Rules of liability aligned to EU concept, in particular with respect to “parental liability” Private enforcement: Implementation of EU Cartel Damage Claims Directive. Merger control: New “size of transaction” threshold While the existing merger control “turnover”-thresholds remain unchanged and will continue to apply, the Amendment introduces an alternative “size of transaction”-threshold. The new threshold is the result of a perceived lack of control over transactions involving companies with significant market potential, but–for the time being–limited actual revenues in Germany, like tech start-ups with immense predictable growth. Under the new threshold, transactions will have to be notified in Germany if (i) the parties’...

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McDermott EU Competition Annual Review 2016

It is difficult for General Counsel and their teams to monitor all new developments adequately. With the growth of the Internet and the daily updates to EU competition rules, everyone receives and has access to masses of information, but it is difficult to select that which is really relevant to one’s business. McDermott’s EU Competition team across Brussels, France, Germany and Italy has authored the EU Competition Annual Review 2016 to help General Counsel and their teams to focus on the essential updates that they should be aware of. This Special Report summarizes recent developments in EU competition rules during the year 2016 where several new regulations, notices and guidelines were issued by the European Commission and many interesting cases were decided by the General Court and the EU Court of Justice. All these new rules and judicial decisions can be relevant for international companies operating in the EU. Indeed, in addition to the daily update,...

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Getting the Deal Through: Pharmaceutical Antitrust 2014

McDermott has contributed to the Italian chapter of the 2014 edition of “Pharmaceutical Antitrust” published by Getting the Deal Through, a valuable work tool for legal practitioners dealing with antitrust rules in the pharmaceutical sector.  The chapter addresses the most significant regulatory and antitrust issues affecting the marketing, authorization and pricing of pharmaceutical products in Italy. Click here to read the full chapter.

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