GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Ireland

10 January 2017

Ireland

As Ireland’s two-year-old Competition and Consumer Protection Commission steadily increases its enforcement activity, the country’s competition bar remains busy with merger control work and investigations alike.

Elite

Competition bigwig Vincent Power leads the competition team at A&L GOODBODY. He works alongside partners Alan McCarthy, Anna-Marie Curran and Micaela Diver – who joined the partnership in May 2016. Four associates round out the highly reputable team.

The practice has members based in both Dublin and Belfast, who say they have recently had a larger crowd of competition work coming through their doors. Power recently provided a wealth of competition advice to Dalata, which has purchased a number of hotels, while Alan McCarthy acts for Ladbrokes in a Irish merger control matter. Curran is lead counsel for Trinity Mirror in relation to a media merger notification, and acted for Baxter Healthcare when the company faced Phase II scrutiny over its tie-up with Fannin; the deal marked the first time the CCPC cleared a merger on the basis of a failing firm defence.

The team also advised UDG Healthcare in a US$1 billion sale to McKesson/Celesio, and Heineken in a notification to CCPC that related to a joint venture in the drinks sector. They are also advising a large multinational client operating in the agriculture sector on a merger control matter. While much of their other work is confidential, they provide competition advice to a large roster of clients, including Coca-Cola, Tesco, Aviva and the Bank of Ireland.

The much-admired competition practice at MCCANN FITZGERALD suffered a blow this year with the retirement of Damian Collins in April 2016 – leaving Philip Andrews as the competition group’s practice head and sole partner. He splits his time between Brussels and Dublin, while senior associate Laura Treacy works full-time in the European capital. The pair work alongside consultant Rosaleen Byrne, another senior associate and two associates who maintain the firm’s healthy competition practice in Dublin.

A partner since 2006, Andrews joined McCann in 2002 after working for the European Commission and Weil Gotshal & Manges in Brussels, and then the national competition authority in Dublin. He and his team recently acted for Topaz in its acquisition of Esso Ireland and the subsequent divestment proceedings; the deal, conditionally cleared by CCPC in 2015, is one of the largest Irish mergers in recent history. Currently, they are advising the GIC Singapore sovereign wealth fund and Irish Life, along with a confidential client, in merger control proceedings.

Much of the team’s investigations and compliance work is confidential, although they remain busy with matters touching on broad range of industries. Some of their clients include Vodafone, ESB, VHI, Bord na Móna and ITV.

ARTHUR COX slid down GCR’s rankings following the departure of longtime competition partner John Meade in June 2016, only one year after the retirement of former partner Pat O’Brien, who had a sterling reputation among his rivals. Richard Ryan, who was promoted to Arthur Cox’s partnership in 2015, now spearheads the team, working alongside consultant Florence Loric; she joined the firm’s litigation group in 2008 and then moved to the competition practice in October 2015. The firm says her addition marks the expansion of the group’s core focus to encompass regulated markets as well. Three associates round out the team.

Currently, the team is advising Irish Cement Limited in an ongoing CCPC probe into the bagged cement sector; the authority launched its investigation with a series of dawn raids in May 2015. Ryan acts for Insurance Island, a motor insurance industry association that was hit with witness summonses and an information request by the CCPC in relation to the authority’s price signalling probe. He also advised Paddy Power when the company secured merger control approval of its tie-up with Betfair Group. Loric led the team representing Aer Lingus in state aid litigation, and eircom in merger control proceedings for its acquisition of sports broadcaster Setanta Sports Ireland Channel. The team also represents Heatons in a High Court claim alleging abuse of dominance against ASICS for terminating the department store’s supply agreement.

Niall Collins is highly regarded by his peers, and leads the competition group at MASON HAYES & CURRAN. He works alongside partners Maureen O’Neill and Robert McDonagh, counsel Tony Burke, one senior associate, three associates and one in-house economist. The team advises clients on an impressive roster of cases, although many are are confidential. They say they are particularly strong at merger control, and advise approximately one-third of all mergers assessed by the CCPC in 2015. Moreover, the team acted on three of the six Phase II reviews conducted by the CCPC in recent years.

Recently, Collins led the team that acted for Valero Energy in connection with Topaz’s proposed acquisition of Esso Ireland, and Fane Valley Cooperative Society in connection to a joint venture with ABP Food Group; that high-profile domestic deal in the agriculture sector was notified to the European Commission. Meanwhile, O’Neill is lead counsel to Liberty Global on the competition and regulatory issues related to its subsidiary Virgin Media’s acquisition of UTV Ireland. Last year, she advised Liberty Global when the company acquired TV3, Ireland’s largest commercial free-to-air channel. O’Neill also leads the team that advises Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Energy on the regulatory and state aid aspects of the national broadband plan, and Deutsche Bahn in relation to an acquisition by its subsidiary Schenker of logistics and freight forwarding company Redhead Holdings.

Helen Kelly of MATHESON has all-star competition status, having acted on a number of major Irish and EU cases. She is assisted by two senior associates and two solicitors, all of whom are eminently qualified. Together they advise a lengthy list of impressive clients, including An Post; Independent News & Media, the largest newspaper publisher in Ireland; Google; and several leading companies in the technology sector, among others. While much of their high-profile work is confidential, Kelly says the practice is booming and continues to attract clients across sectors.

Currently, she and her team represent the Irish Brokers Association in the CCPC’s price signalling probe. They are defending Google against a major Irish High Court claim by Ryanair, and have been retained by the Commercial Mushrooms Producers Cooperative Society in the first ever high court proceedings against a government department for allegedly withholding payments under a EU state aid scheme. Matheson obtained merger clearance for taxi-hailing apps Hailo and Mytaxi to go ahead with a deal, and acted for News Corp in the first media merger involving publicly listed companies under Ireland’s new regime. The team also advised Independent New & Media in a tie-up with Celtic Media Group, and is advising the Granahan McCourt/enet/John Laing/3i consortium on its bid for the national broadband plan, the largest ever rollout of high-speed broadband by the Irish state.

Cormac Little, head of competition at WILLIAM FRY in Dublin, runs a busy and thriving competition practice in Ireland. He works alongside partners Claire Waterson and Sheila Tormey – who was promoted into the partnership in May 2016 – and two associates. Recently, Tormey was lead counsel to UTV Media with respect to the sale of its television division to ITV, while Little advised DCC on the sale of Fannin Compounding to Baxter Healthcare. The pair advised King Digital Entertainment when the company was acquired by Activision Blizzard; and Little and Waterson led the team that advised a bid for the National Broadband Plan by SIRO, a joint venture of ESB and Vodafone.

While several of their current cases are confidential, the team regularly provides a breadth of competition advice to its established client base, some of which are Amazon, Asics, ComReg, SOlAS, Radius Payment Solutions, Uniphar, Allied Irish Banks, Premier Lotteries Ireland and Ardagh Packaging. In recent years, Little and Waterson advised Aughinish Alumina on challenges to two European Commission decisions that found a hydrocarbon tax exemption to be unlawful state aid, heard by Europe’s General Court in May 2015. Waterson also advised Premier Lotteries on licensing issues attached to its €405 million, 20-year purchase of Ireland’s lottery franchise, approved in 2014.

Sole competition partner and practice head Marco Hickey and two other lawyers make up the impressive competition team at LK SHIELDS. Hickey literally “wrote the book” on this subject: Merger Control in Ireland was published in 2013, reflecting the depth of his expertise in the field. Recently, he acted for Newstalk in a complaint to the European Commission against state broadcaster RTÉ over alleged breaches to state aid rules, and advised Tedcastles Group on a series of acquisitions in markets for which the CCPC and Irish courts have yet to set a definitive approach. He and his team also acted for TravelSky, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, in relation to its acquisition of OpenJaw Technologies from GuestLogix. They counselled Topaz Investments Limited on the competition law aspects of the sale of Topaz Energy Group to Alimentation Couche-Tard of Canada – a deal cleared by the European Commission. They are also advising Dentsu Aegis Network on its acquisition of Poster Management.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

A&L Goodbody

Vincent Power

4 partners

4 associates

Vincent Power

Alan McCarthy

Aviva, Bank of Ireland, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Tesco, Zurich, Irish Continental Group, Erviva, Aspen, Volkswagen, UDG Health

McCann Fitzgerald

Philip Andrews

1 partner

1 consultant

2 senior associates

2 associates

Philip Andrews

Bord na Móna, Erviva, National Asset Management Agency, Cemex, Topaz Energy Group, TV3, Vodaphone, One51

Highly recommended

Arthur Cox

Richard Ryan

1 partner

1 consultant

3 associates

None

Aer Lingus, Paddy Power Betfair, Department of Finance, Eircom Limited, Irish Cement Limited, Applegreen pls, Heatons

Mason Hayes & Curran

Niall Collins

3 partners

1 counsel

1 senior associate

3 associates

1 economist

Niall Collins

Maureen O’Neill

Liberty Global, Virgin Media, Nestlé, McKesson, Expedia, The Carlyle Group, British Telecommunications, Calor Gas, Google, ComReg, Amazon

Matheson

Helen Kelly

1 partner

2 senior associates

2 solicitors

Helen Kelly

Google, ITV, Independent News & Media, An Post, News Corp, Bank of Ireland, Three, Lloyds Devevlopment Bank, Hailo, Mytaxi, CMP

William Fry

Cormac Little

3 partners

2 associates

Cormac Little

Asics, Aughinish Alumina, ComReg, Glanbia, Premier Lotteries Ireland, SHEL Holdings, Tesco Mobile, Allied Irish Banks, IAG, IDA Ireland

Recommended

LK Shields

Marco Hickey

1 partner

1 solicitor

1 UK-trained lawyer

None

Topaz Investments Limited, Communicorp Group, Newstalk, CityPOST, Elverys Sports, Bemis Inc, Tedcastles Oil Products, Dentsu Aegis Network

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