News

Cartonboard

Premium 01 September 1998

The European Court of First Instance has largely upheld the fines levied by the Commission on 19 companies involved in a cartel in the cartonboard market — one company has had its fine annulled completely, while others have seen small reductions, the total fines imposed being reduced from Ecu 131.75 million to Ecu 120.33 million.

Price-Waterhouse/Coopers & Lybrand

Premium 01 September 1998

The EU Commission has formally cleared the notified merger between Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand following a full investigation centred on the risk of dominance in the market for audit and accounting services to large companies.

Akzo/Courtaulds

Premium 01 September 1998

The European Commission has decided to clear the acquisition of the British firm Courtaulds plc by Akzo Nobel NV of the Netherlands, subject to commitments by the two firms to divest their interests in aerospace coatings and sealants, thus eliminating any overlap in these markets.

Universal/Polygram

Premium 01 September 1998

The plans of Seagram’s president and CEO to turn the venerable drinks company into an entertainment colossus continue with the announcement that Seagram’s Universal Studios arm is spending US$10.6 billion to acquire PolyGram NV – creating the world’s largest music company.

Canada: Canada-EU cooperation agreement

Premium 01 August 1998

Canadian antitrust enforcers continue their efforts to ensure international cooperation in competition law investigations by finalising a cooperation agreement with the EU. An example of the need for international cooperation was highlighted by the record C$16 million fine obtained by the Competition Bureau against Archer Daniels Midland in connection with an international food additives conspiracy. The Competition Bureau is also pleased with a recent Supreme Court ruling confirming that Canadian officials are not required to obtain a search warrant before asking for investigative assistance from foreign governments in criminal matters.

Finland: Merger control regime from October

Premium 01 August 1998

The new Finnish merger control regime is to be welcomed. The legislating bodies as well as the competition authorities seem to have taken a realistic approach and have said that concentrations generally have a positive impact on the market, and that prohibitions would only be applied in exceptional cases. Moreover, the regime lays down that where possible conditions are to be imposed as the initial response in rectifying any competition concerns in preference to outright prohibition. In practice, the investigation of a concentration may be very lengthy. The maximum period would be nine months, which would be likely cause significant difficulties for the parties involved. This problem arises from the fact that the OFC is not empowered to block a merger as such, only to request that this be done by the Competition Council, which will carry out its own investigation. Neither the detailed notices nor the notification form have as yet been published. They are expected to correspond with the relevant EC rules to a large extent.

China: Price cartels, selling below cost and price discrimination banned

Premium 01 August 1998

China has enacted rules against price cartels, selling below cost and price discrimination. A price cartel seems to be illegal only if the participants intend to control the market price. Selling below cost and price discrimination are illegal even in the absence of a dominant position or a restrictive effect on competition.

Austria: Leading banks under investigation

Premium 01 August 1998

The Commission’s investigation is a totally new experience for Austrian banks. It is the first time they have been subject to such antitrust proceedings. The Commission's move came at a very sensitive time, namely one week before Austria took over the presidency in the European Union.

Snecma/Messier Dowty

Premium 01 August 1998

The European Commission has authorised the takeover by the French stateowned company Snecma, specialised in jet engines, of Messier Dowty, which was jointly controlled with the UK company IT Group.

Air France

Premium 01 August 1998

Air France has lost out in a European court battle with some of its competitors, who claimed that the Commission had failed to justify its 1994 approval of Fr20 billion in state aid to the beleaguered national carrier.