GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Norway

10 January 2017

Norway

While all may be relatively quiet on the enforcement front, several interesting matters still keep the small selection of firms containing Norway’s top competition lawyers busy.

Elite

BA-HR is renowned for its high-quality, pure antitrust work. In the absence of many large domestic transactions, it has focused on behavioural matters and multi-jurisdictional filings in recent years, particularly in oil and gas. In-house economist Harald Selte is highly rated and gives BA-HR an edge over many rivals.

The firm is involved with most major cases in Norway. It is defending Color Line against a follow-on damages claim by fellow ferry company Bastø Fosen. The firm also represents the company during Norwegian proceedings tied to a rival’s application to access two of its ports; a decision in that case, which has also involved proceedings before Sweden’s competition enforcer, is pending. Following a 2012 EFTA Court ruling that Posten Norge abused its dominant position on the Norwegian parcel delivery sector, partner Beret Sundet represents the company in follow-on litigation.

In the country’s closely watched retail groceries sector, BA-HR is counsel to Rema 1000. It advised the supermarket on the possible joint purchasing agreement with Coop, which caused much surprise when it was announced in December, but now looks to be off the cards after Coop recently announced its intention to take over ICA Norway, a rival operator.

On the merger side, BA-HR frequently represents DNB Bank, Norway’s largest bank. Most recently, partner Helge Stemshaug acted for the bank as it merged its Baltic banking operations with Nordea, which will see a combination of the area’s third and fourth-largest banks. Private equity house Norvestor is another key client of the firm: Stemshaug has been responsible for a slew of recent Norwegian notifications, including of its acquisition of telecommunications provider Phonero and soft facility management provider 4Service.

Siri Teigum, competition practice head at THOMMESSEN, continues to lead a stable and well-regarded team at one of the top competition shops in Norway. She is assisted by partner Eivind Vesterkjær and associate partner Eivind Sæveraas. All three work solely on competition. Between them they cover the full range of competition work, though Teigum focuses mainly on investigations and litigation.

The firm is representing former telecoms incumbent Telenor before the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is investigating potential competition breaches in the Norwegian telecoms sector; the agency issued a statement of objections in 2016. The firm is also leading the defence of shipping company Höegh in a cartel investigation; coordinating in the United States and Japan and directly representing it in Brussels. The firm is also involved in other confidential behavioural matters.

On the transactional side, Vesterkjær represented construction company Mestergruppen during an acquisition of rival Byggtorget; despite close scrutiny by Norway’s Competition Authority, it ultimately unconditionally cleared the deal in Phase I in May 2016.

As of July 2016, ARNTZEN DE BESCHE’s competition law team is co-headed by partners Stein Ove Solberg and and Espen Bakken. The firm promoted Thea Susanne Skaug to partner in October 2016. In July 2016, Solberg acted for ferry operator Torghatten during its ambitious attempt to acquire F1 Holdings – Norway’s Competition Authority blocked the deal in July 2016, marking one of the most important cases handled in Norway in the last year.

The firm helped Shell sell its entire Norwegian downstream business, including more than 400 petrol stations, to Finnish rival St1. One part of the deal won DG Comp approval without conditions, while the NCA approved the petrol station transaction subject to some restrictions in August 2015. It also handled a notification for food marketing group Cargill as it acquired the EWOS Group, and acted as a monitoring trustee in relation to Orkla’s acquisition of Cederroth Interessenter, which had received clearance conditioned on structural remedies.

Business is steady for transactional firm SELMER. Ole-Andreas Torgersen, who has worked in-house, leads the practice; he is joined by Harald Evensen, a former legal director at Norway’s enforcer, a senior lawyer, two senior associates and one associate. The firm says it works closely with its anti-corruption team to advise its clients on compliance matters.

Selmer acted in the blocked ferry merger for F1 subsidiary Fjord1 as its parent unsuccessfully attempted to sell it to Torghatten, in particular fighting attempts from the parties to the transaction attempting to access information the subsidiary had provided to Norway’s Competition Authority. Merger control has been busy for the firm in the past year: it has assisted Palfinger Marine as it acquired both Herkules Harding and the TTS Group, which involved a global merger filing assessment and coordination; Fotball Media’s sale of premier league football broadcasting rights; and Ciber as it sold subsidiary consultancy Ciber Norge to the Manpower Group. That last deal received clearance in less than two-and-a-half days.

Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee and practice head Anders Ryssdal, one of the leading lights of Norwegian competition law, leads the talented five-partner group at WIERSHOLM MELLBYE & BECH. Håkon Cosma Størdal arrived in June 2013 from the NCA, where he was legal director. While the firm works in all areas of competition law, it is particularly strong in litigation.

Ryssdal has represented NCC during appeals following the Norwegian 2013 asphalt cartel decision. In late 2015, Norway’s Supreme Court upheld the 150 million kroner fine imposed on NCC. Håkon last year represented supermarket operator Coop as it took over ICA, in a closely watched and complex case.

WIKBORG REIN practice head Jonn Ola Sørensen is a former legal director at the NCA and says one of the firm’s strengths is its knowledge of the enforcer. The firm has one of the largest and most active practices in Norway. While merger control is a focus, the team covers all areas of competition law. The firm advises four out of the 10 companies in Norway which must notify even transactions that fall below its enforcer’s ordinary thresholds. Wikborg Rein recruited former Ernst & Young partner Elisabeth Roscher as special counsel in 2016.

A highlight in 2016 involved securing a closure of a Norwegian abuse of dominance case against client Jotun, the largest operator in the country’s paint and coatings market, two years after the investigation was opened. The firm also acts for Marine Harvest in a follow-on claim against the European air cargo cartel in Norway’s courts. In merger control, Wikborg Rein represented shipyard and shipping company Havila in its opposition to the Torghatten/F1 shipping merger.

Kristin Hjelmaas Valla became KVALE’s head of competition in January 2016. The firm shines in conduct work. It is advising the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises and Holship in relation to a dispute with the Norwegian Transport Worker’s Union, as they claim that a union agreement granting exclusive rights to its stevedores in 13 Norwegian ports constitutes an abuse of dominance. Valle acted for Umoe Restaurants, the owner of Peppes Pizza, as it sought to acquire a majority stake in rival chain Dolly Dimple’s; Norway’s Competition Authority blocked the deal in autumn 2016.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

BA-HR

Helge Stemshaug

N/A

Harald K Selte

Helge Stemshaug

Beret Sundet

DNB Bank, Color Line, Posten Norge, Norvestor, Det Norske Oljeselskap

Thommessen

Siri Teigum

2 partners

1 associate partner

3 managing associates

6 associates

Eivind Sæveraas

Siri Teigum

Eivind J Vesterkjær

Höegh Autoliners, Telenor, Statoil, Gyldendal, Mestergruppen, BAMA

Highly recommended

Arntzen de Besche

Espen Bakken

Stein Ove Solberg

3 partners

Thea Skaug

Stein Ove Solberg

Federal Express, Torghatten, Hyundai Motor Norway, SAS Group, Shell, Cargill, Astra Zeneca, SAAB

Schjødt

N/A

N/A

Olav Kolstad

N/A

Selmer

Ole-Andreas Torgersen

2 partners

1 senior lawyer

2 senior associates

1 associate

Harald Evensen

Accenture, Air Liquide, Alstom Transport Norway, Cardinal Foods, Celsa Steel Service, Canon Norge, Datametrix

Wiersholm Mellbye & Bech

Håkon Cosma Størdal

5 partners

Anders S Ryssdal

AF Gruppen Norge, BankID Norge, IK Investment Partners, Norway's energy mnistry, Schibsted, Coop Norge, BT Signaal, IBM, JCDecaux

Wikborg Rein

N/A

1 partner

1 specialist counsel

1 senior lawyer

4 associates

None

Norgesruppen, Solstad Offshore, Marine Harvest, John Wood Group, Norway's Competition Authority, Tide Buss, Austevoll Seafood

Recommended

Kvale

Kristin Hjelmaas Valla

2 partners

1 senior lawyer

Kristin Hjelmaas Valla

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Telia, Coca-Cola Enterprises Norway, Umoe Restaurants, Danske Bank

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