News

Merita/Nordbanken

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Finland’s largest bank, Merita, and Sweden’s third largest lender, Nordbanken, announced plans for a SKr80 billion merger on 13 October.

European Union: More cooperation

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It remains to be seen whether a significant caseload is transferred by the Commission to national authorities following the adoption of this Notice. If this does result in a considerable reallocation of cases, there will inevitably be increased pressure on the resources of national competition authorities. Of particular interest in this context is that the UK Competition Bill is due to implement an EU-style competition regime in the UK in 1998. In conjunction with this, the Bill contains specific provisions authorising the Director General of Fair Trading to obtain a warrant to enter premises by force when undertaking an investigation at the request of the European Commission in connection with an Article 85 or 86 investigation which has been commenced at the EU level.

Merrill Lynch/ Mercury Asset Management

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US investment bank Merrill Lynch is attempting to surge ahead of rival global fund managers with its proposed US$3.1 billion takeover of Mercury Asset Management.

Japan: New deregulation plan

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The Japanese Cabinet has approved the Second Revised Deregulation Action Plan. Some of the Plan’s measures include the review of a variety of competition law systems; the deletion of a notice requirement for international contracts; and the submission of an omnibus bill to repeal, reform, or review many of the systems which provide exemptions from the Antimonopoly Act.

Department of Justice v Microsoft

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The US Department of Justice hopes to clarify some problems in the antitrust field in relation to technology when it prosecutes computer software giant Microsoft. The DoJ has filed a petition in the District of Columbia asking a judge to find the company in breach of a consent decree of 1995 requiring the company to alter the way it supplied software to personal computer manufacturers.

Sweden: Posten AB v Competition Authority

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The Swedish court has examined the burden of proof on the Competition Authority in predatory pricing cases. It found that where the alleged infringer had utilised generally accepted accounting principles, answered the Authority’s questions and not concealed information, the burden of proof was on the Authority to prove that the alleged infringer had abused its dominant position.

United States: Resale price maintenance

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In Khan, the Supreme Court received briefs supporting the rule of reason approach from a wide variety of sources, including the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, automakers, beer distributors and newspaper publishers. In contrast, a group of approximately 30 state attorneys-general opposed the overruling of the per se rule enunciated in Albrecht. In finding for State Oil, the Court implicitly rejected the argument of the Attorneys General that maximum price fixing 'displaces the free play of market forces'.

Ireland: Competition Authority Guidelines

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The publication of this series of Guidelines is further evidence of the Authority’s intention to use its new enforcement powers in a proactive way. Since it was given these powers in the 1996 Act, it has taken effective action in relation to a number of complaints from a variety of sources. The issues involved have related to matters such as resale price maintenance, collective boycotts and industrywide price-fixing arrangements.

Sentrachem/Dow Chemical

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US-based giant Dow Chemical announced at the end of August that the board of directors of South African based chemical company Sentrachem had accepted its revised offer to acquire all the shares of Sentrachem. Dow’s revised offer is 11.75 South African rand per share (US $2.50).

AT&T/STET/Unisource

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US telecommunications giant AT&T and Italian telecommunications group Stet/Telcom Italia formed a 50-50 strategic partnership in Latin America in July, while in Europe Stet/Telcom Italia joined the pan-European joint venture between AT&T and Unisource NV.