News

Merita/Nordbanken

Premium 01 December 1997

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

Finland: Customers illegally tied

Premium 01 December 1997

In its decision to increase the fine proposed by the Office of Free Competition from Fmk3 million to Fmk5 million in a case relating to abuse of a dominant market position, the Competition Council mentioned as an aggravating factor the fact that the form of abuse concerned was both generally condemned and also prohibited under EC Competition Law.

United Kingdom: Common merger application form

Premium 01 December 1997

As an attempt to simplify procedures, the move to a uniformly recognised questionnaire should be welcomed. As a practical matter, however, the benefits of the new system are limited. The new form reflects the difficulties involved in achieving effective simplification.

Belgium: Conditional clearance

Premium 01 December 1997

The previous case law of the Council suggested that it had adopted the EU Commission’s approach that undertakings could be accepted in both stage I and stage II decisions. (The amended EU merger regulation, which comes into effect on 1 March 1998, incorporates a new provision confirming that the EU Commission may make stage I (and stage II) clearance decisions conditional on undertakings.)

European Union: More cooperation

Premium 01 December 1997

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.

Spain: Competition law reform

Premium 01 December 1997

Although details of the reforms are not yet available, the intention of the government is to introduce far-reaching changes to the Spanish competition law system. In principle, reform is welcome. Firstly, it will introduce a more independent and powerful competition authority by separating the current SDC from the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The new reforms will also align the domestic merger control system with the European trend of moving to compulsory regimes. While the TDC currently examines only two or three concentrations per year, the German or Italian authorities examine several hundred. Finally, the changes to the state aid rules (an area which traditionally has a very low rate of enforcement in Spain) will also be significant, allowing interested third parties to request the intervention of the competition authorities.

India: Airport development

Premium 01 December 1997

The new airport policy allows flexibility in ownership and management at airports and has paved the way for private airports in India.

Ireland: Competition Authority Guidelines

Premium 01 December 1997

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.

ITT/ Starwood Lodging

Premium 01 December 1997

Starwood Lodging, the largest hotel real estate investment trust (REIT) in the United States, announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire ITT Corporation, owner of the Sheraton hotel chain, on 20 October.

Canada: User fees introduced

Premium 01 December 1997

The Competition Bureau recently began charging user fees for, among other things, merger filings.