|Merger ranking:||-||Cartel ranking:||5||Litigation ranking:||-|
|Global head||Nigel Parr, Euan Burrows, Peter Armitage|
|No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team||6|
|Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal||27%|
|Lateral partner hires||0|
|Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel||2|
Euan Burrows and Nigel Parr co-lead Ashurst’s busy global competition practice from London, joined by Peter Armitage in Sydney. Both offices are highly regarded in their own right, as are its four other GCR-ranked teams in Europe, which punch above their weight compared to some larger rivals. Beyond those major hubs, the firm also advises clients in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions with lawyers in lesser-known antitrust jurisdictions like Abu Dhabi and Jakarta.
Much of Ashurst’s notable merger control matters are rooted in Europe. The firm is guiding IHS Markit through UK and EU reviews of its $44 billion merger with S&P Global, which involves spinning off various IHS Markit assets to News Corp. Ashurst is also advising insurance provider Santa Lucía on the merger of its subsidiary, Albia, with its closest rival, Funespaña, which Spain’s National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) is reviewing in depth. The firm also assists both Albia and Funespaña in appealing against gun-jumping fines imposed by the CNMC for failing to notify purchases of rivals. Outside of Europe, the firm successfully defended Aurizon in proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against the proposed sale of the Acacia Ridge rail terminal to Pacific National. The Full Federal Court dismissed the agency’s allegations that the sale would harm competition in May 2020 before the High Court then rejected permission to appeal seven months later.
The firm has long been credited for its expertise in pharmaceutical cases, but that makes up less of its caseload now than in previous years. It does, however, defend generic manufacturer Medreich as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority probes an alleged cartel regarding the supply of an anti-nausea drug. Other cartel work includes acting for Imperial Tobacco Netherlands as the Dutch enforcer probed alleged information exchange among cigarette manufacturers. The firm obtained a 50% penalty discount on Imperial Tobacco’s eventual €10.4 million fine. In Australia, it defends Alkaloids of Australia in criminal cartel proceedings that were launched in December 2020, while two company directors – also represented by Ashurst – escaped further enforcement action.
In appeals work, Ashurst acts for Alfa Acciai, Ferriera Valsabbia and Valsabbia Investimenti in challenging the European Commission’s readoption of its Reinforcing Steel Bars cartel decision. The firm also represents the same companies in seeking damages in the form of default interest on the fine that the agency was forced to reimburse after the EU General Court annulled its first infringement decision in 2017.
Ashurst also continues to counsel Intel in a long-running challenge to its €1 billion EU fine for abusing its dominance in the supply of microchips through loyalty rebates. The EU General Court’s judgment is pending following a hearing in 2020, after the European Court of Justice upheld Intel’s appeal and ordered the lower court to rehear the case.
Meanwhile, the firm is involved in one of the most high-profile private litigation cases to emerge in Europe in recent years, challenging the attempted formation of the European Super League. The firm represents UEFA as the now-abandoned football league challenges the rules of UEFA and FIFA as being contrary to EU competition law. A Spanish judge referred questions to the ECJ in May 2021.
Ashurst's integrated team of lawyers and economists combines dedicated experts who assist clients with multi-jurisdictional and local competition law challenges across Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region. We advise clients across all industries including Energy & Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Digital Economy, Financial Services and Real Estate.
The Ashurst competition team has a long established pedigree in complex and ground-breaking competition investigations, prosecutions and appeals. Across the practice, we have assisted high profile multinational clients in the most prominent cartel and anti-competitive conduct cases over many years, including some of the largest value EU abuse of dominance cases and various ground-breaking cartel cases. The practice is also increasingly involved in large scale follow-on damages actions across the EU, defending and bringing claims.
In merger reviews, we have a long history of successfully assisting clients to achieve their commercial objectives, in Europe, Australia and across Asia in numerous significant multi-jurisdictional matters we handle. In 2021 we advised on the largest deal in the world by value at $44 billion.
Ashurst also has cutting edge knowledge and experience in relation to state aid and subsidies law, advising clients before the European Commission and European courts. We have recently advised on some of the largest State aid cases in the EU in the areas of member state tax regimes, government support for large infrastructure projects (in particular transport and energy) and emergency government funding and other support as a result of the C-19 pandemic. Our State aid and regulatory practice also relies upon our public procurement and EU Treaty expertise to provide clients with seamless advice; in the field of public procurement we advised on four of the largest challenges to be heard by the UK courts last year.
In advising our clients, we seek out risk-based, practical strategies to meet their commercial objectives and defend their commercial interests. We are also known for our hands on Partner led approach, which clients frequently endorse.
Our in-house economists remain a unique part of the team's proposition, allowing us to offer clients fully integrated legal and economic expertise. We remain one of the few international law firms with a team of in-house economists, and clients consistently identify this as a key differentiating factor that adds significant value across the board, particularly in complex matters involving detailed economic analysis. This also mirrors the multi-disciplinary teams fielded by regulators.