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Belgium: Draft bill on electricity market opening

Premium - 01 April 1999

Because of delays in the passage of the Bill caused by the introduction of amendments, the law is not expected to be adopted before mid- April 1999 at the earliest. However, the level of market opening that will be reached in Belgium is already substantial and is higher than the 26.48 per cent minimum set by the Commission.

Franchising: EU proposals to modify vertical restraint rules harmful to franchising

Premium - 01 April 1999

The Commission is proposing to use a market share approach for the exemption of some vertical restraints. However, there is little guidance or precedent in the EU on the way in which markets should be defined in the context of distribution arrangements in general, and franchising arrangements in particular. In the US, the courts and antitrust enforcement agencies have rejected the notion that any presumption of market power flows from a franchisor’s trademark or unique name. Therefore, the markets in which franchisors operate are generally identified as the upstream market for the sale of business opportunities or a broad downstream market for products sold by both franchised and nonfranchise businesses.

Valmet/ Rauma

Premium - 01 April 1999

The European Commission has cleared a merger between two Finnish paper and pulp machinery manufacturers, Valmet and Rauma.

AT&T/ BT

Premium - 01 April 1999

The European Commission has cleared the US$11 billion joint venture between BT and AT&T to create the world’s largest carrier of transit services.

Germany: Bundeskartellamt enforces liberalisation of energy markets

Premium - 01 April 1999

The case is an important precedent and can be regarded as a significant step towards increased competition in the German energy sector. For the first time, the German regulator has applied the new competition rules in the energy sector and actively supported a market entrant pursuing its right to third party network access. It can be expected that Enron’s example will be followed by other energy suppliers seeking to enter the German market and result in the breaking up of existing regional network monopolies.

AT&T/ TCI complete merger

Premium - 01 April 1999

Phone giant AT&T and cable company Tele-Communications Inc have completed their US$48 billion merger eight months after it was first announced.

Ireland: New regime for vertical agreements

Premium - 01 April 1999

The new category certificate and category licence are to be welcomed. They recognise the positive contribution which vertical agreements normally make to economic life. While the use of market share thresholds introduces a degree of uncertainty in relation to the application of the documents (particularly for companies with market shares which may be close to the thresholds), this seems a small price to pay for a more realistic recognition of the effect on competition of such agreements. In practice, this approach will eliminate the need to consider the possible application of the Competition Act to the vast majority of vertical agreements. Of course, where such agreements may affect trade between EU Member States, the European Commission’s existing block exemption regulations will remain relevant until they too are replaced by a more flexible regime. It is to be hoped that any divergences which may arise between the new Irish regime and the Commission’s new block exemption regulation will not cause too much difficulty for businesses marketing their goods and services in Ireland.

Delta/ Atlantic Southeast

Premium - 01 April 1999

Delta Air Lines has taken control of ASA Holdings Inc, the parent company of Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Atlantic Southeast and ASA Holdings will remain wholly owned but separate units.

Mexico airlines

Premium - 01 April 1999

Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Competition Commission, says it is investigating charges that Corporación Internacional de Aviación SA (Grupo Cintra), the three-year-old holding company for the country’s two largest carriers, Aeromexico SA and Mexicana de Aviación, is engaged in 'predatory' marketing practices that have hurt smaller carriers.

Commission bank raids

Premium - 01 April 1999

EU antitrust investigators have raided eight banks across the continent to investigate whether there is cooperation on the fees charged for converting currencies in the euro zone.