During economic downturns, valuations drop and dealmakers rightly expect a shift from a sellers' to a buyers' market. It is uncertain whether this will prove to be true for the COVID-19 recession. This article highlights how in-house M&A strategists can navigate present acquisition challenges and looks ahead to what the European M&A market may look like in the years to come.
With the topic of sustainability moving up the global political agenda, there is an increasing need for competition policy to respond. Competition law should not pose an obstacle to companies' genuine collective sustainability initiatives. Rather, it should facilitate and encourage them, based on their ability to invest and innovate, to embrace their wider responsibilities to society by internalising negative externalities and truly contribute to a sustainable future.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued two press releases in which it confirmed one fine and imposed another on non-cooperative competitors, the first for an obstruction during a dawn raid and the second for not replying to a request for information. The fines demonstrate how important it is for companies to be aware of their procedural rights and obligations during investigations carried out by the office.
The EU Damages Directive was transposed into Slovenian law with the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act, which confers a right to claim compensation to anyone who has suffered damages arising out of competition law infringements. The introduced changes alleviate claimants' burden of proof, facilitate access to evidence and provide for specific provisions applicable when determining the amount of damages resulting from competition law infringements.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently fined retail chain Kaufland Bulgaria Lev343,417 (approximately €175,000) for abuse of a superior bargaining position. The fine was requested by an alcohol producer. The CPC also established that by abusing its superior bargaining position, Kaufland had also violated the interests of consumers.
The Hungarian Competition Authority's (HCA's) recent decision in an abuse of significant market power case against Spar has created a forward-looking solution which is unprecedented in such cases. As a proactive reparation for the competition infringement and in order to avoid an HCA fine, the supermarket chain will develop a new regional supply system. The programme will have a budget of HUF1.7 billion and will not only improve small producers' sales opportunities, but also create new jobs.
In August 2020 the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) reopened its in-depth review of the sale of CEZ's Bulgarian assets to Eurohold. Based on the collected data in the course of the investigation, the CPC concluded that the merging of two large economic groups operating in the electricity and insurance sectors did not create or strengthen a dominant position of the affected markets in which the parties operate. The CPC unconditionally cleared the transaction.
When it comes to clearing a path in a forest to construct and operate an overhead electrical power line, electricity grid operators face various legal issues. In its recent decision on the 380kV Salzburg line, the Supreme Administrative Court considered whether the permitting requirements of the Forestry Act stipulated for grubbing ups must also be applied to path clearances in an EIA permitting procedure by reason of EU law.
The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) is investigating whether Pharmacy Janković has beached the obligation to notify the acquisition of control over a pharmacy chain in the town of Zrenjanin. Zrenjanin has granted a concession to the pharmacy to finance, revitalise, manage and run pharmaceutical operations for 15 years.
From 1 January 2021, the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) will be available for pre-notification discussions. To this end, the CPC has published rules for such contact. The CPC's rules on pre-notification contact are a step in the right direction in implementing best European practices on merger control. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen how practical they will be for the notifying parties.
With an amendment to the Electricity Industry and Organisation Act passed by Parliament, the network reserve will become part of Austria's congestion management system. The aim of the network reserve is to achieve network stability and security of supply in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Procurement is carried out within the framework of a transparent, non-discriminatory and market-oriented tendering procedure.
The planned merger of three banks into a new Hungarian bank holding (a so-called 'superbank') was announced in Spring 2020. Normally, such a merger would require competition authority approval. However, the government has issued a decree exempting the superbank's merger from competition scrutiny. The government held that the measure was required from a public interest standpoint in order to boost the Hungarian financial sector's competitiveness.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently announced in a press release that it had imposed a Kc32 million (approximately €1.2 million) fine on Czech retail chain HRUŠKA, spol sro for an alleged abuse of significant market power. According to the press release, the retail chain allegedly violated the Significant Market Power Act by fully transferring all business risks and losses associated with the sale of goods nearing their expiration date to dozens of its suppliers between 2016 and 2019.
The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has opened an investigation and conducted dawn raids at the premises of importers and wholesalers of consumer electronics for possible anti-competitive agreements concerning resale price maintenance. Based on a preliminary assessment, the CPC believes that importers and wholesalers imposed price restrictions on retailers.
The Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) recently closed the infringement proceeding against Croatia's largest insurer which had been opened ex officio. The proceeding concerned the exclusivity clauses in the insurer's commercial lease agreements; the CCA's main concern was that the clauses prevented landlords from cooperating with other insurers and thus restricted potential competition in the insurance market.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) is one of the few competition enforcers in Europe with a prominent consumer protection enforcement practice. The HCA's holiday sales practice has tremendous potential to aid companies which aim to throw large-scale sales but at the same time intend to avoid large-scale fines. This article distils the HCA's recent practice into clear guidelines in order to assist companies with any sales or promotional campaigns.
In 2017 the Office for the Protection of Competition imposed a gun-jumping fine of Kc4.9 million (approximately €190,000) on Armex Oil sro, a company active in the wholesale fuel market (gasoline and diesel). However, Armex Oil challenged the amount of the fine before the competent regional court, which found the fine to be disproportionate and reduced it. The office then filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, which ultimately backed the original fine.
In 2015 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) imposed a staggering fine on Auchan for abusing its significant market power. The HUF1,06 billion (approximately €3 million) fine is the highest ever imposed by the authority for the infringement of the Trade Act. Although the decision is from 2015, the Hungarian courts have only now put an end to the judicial review. The Supreme Court recently upheld the HCA's decision in its entirety.
As of 4 November 2020 and 11 November 2020, the government introduced new COVID-19 restrictions, including the limited order to stay at home between 8:00pm and 5:00am. The law treats employment and business-related travel as a key exception from the rules. Thus, for business purposes, not only is cross-border travelling allowed, but so is travelling during curfew hours.
Dashcams have become increasingly popular in recent years and a built-in dashcam is now the most sought-after feature among car buyers. Buyers' primary motivation is self-explanatory: recorded footage can be used as evidence in case of an accident. However, whether dashcams are incompatible with privacy and data protection law and thus illegal on Austrian roads is a tricky question.