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Rhone-Poulenc/ Hoechst

Premium - 01 June 1999

A merger between French pharmaceuticals firm Rhône-Poulenc and Hoechst of Germany will create the largest pharmaceuticals and agrochemical company in the world, with annual sales estimated at US$20 billion.

Aetna/ Prudential Life

Premium - 01 June 1999

US insurance firm Aetna Inc is to acquire Prudential Insurance company’s healthcare business for US$1 billion.

Italy’s antitrust authority investigates sports broadcasting

Premium - 01 June 1999

The Italian antitrust authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza del Mercato, is launching a probe into the country’s dominant pay-TV provider, Telepiù, to determine whether it controls too large a share of soccer broadcasting rights to allow fair competition.

Finland: Price conciliation clauses mean utility did not abuse its dominance

Premium - 01 June 1999

In a widely-publicised case, Finland’s Competition Authority has found that a dominant electricity wholesaler’s long-term supply agreements with downstream retailers did not constitute an abuse of a dominant market position because the agreements contained price conciliation clauses and the wholesaler had voluntarily applied the clauses.

Belgium: Reform of competition law leaves questions unanswered

Premium - 01 June 1999

In principle, the reform, which will enter into force in late October 1999, is welcome. However, it is unlikely that it will enable the authorities to dedicate more time to restrictive practices as the new single concentration threshold may well result in more concentrations being notified (although unofficial sources indicate that the new turnover threshold may be shortly increased). Also, the usefulness to the regulatory bodies, markets and practitioners of some of the reforms is questionable. For example, the time period within which the Council is to take stage two decisions is far from clear and this may lead to serious confusion. Moreover, it is uncertain at the time of writing whether a simplified merger notification form is to be introduced for a concentration where market shares do not exceed 25 per cent. If it is not, this is likely to give rise to an unnecessary administrative burden on undertakings. Finally, the advent of a governmental review will introduce an unwelcome political dimension to merger control.

Switzerland: Criteria for calculating failure to notify penalties

Premium - 01 June 1999

In a recent decision, the Swiss Competition Commission has provided a clearer idea of just how much failure to comply with the filing procedures for a merger subject to notification can cost.

Coudert in Frankfurt

Premium - 01 June 1999

Eight lawyers from Frankfurt law firm Fiedler & Forster joined Coudert Brothers in March to create a Frankfurt office for the firm.

Brussels telecoms

Premium - 01 June 1999

Increased telecommunications work in Brussels has resulted in two opposing trends among firms - the creation of highly specialised niche practices, and ‘going large’ on a pan-European scale.

Netherlands: Competition Authority endorses PTT Post's charges for PO box services

Premium - 01 June 1999

Complaints have been made to the Dutch Competition Authority that PTT Post abused its dominant position in the market for post office boxes by introducing charges for these services. The Authority pulled out all the stops in its investigation of the potential abuse, which included an analysis of PTT Post’s costs and profits, an analysis of the prices in other geographical areas and undertakings for PTT Post regarding the treatment of potential competing suppliers and the notification any future price increases to the Authority. The Dutch Competition Authority cooperated on the case with OPTA, the Independent Post & Telecommunications Authority, which has stated that the new pricing is not cross-subsidised. The Authority subsequently approved the new pricing by PTT Post.

Spain: Reform of merger control rules introduces mandatory regime

Premium - 01 June 1999

Although the procedure used to enact the reform is open to criticism, the reform itself is generally welcome. The previous system of voluntary notification did not function properly and resulted in very few competitively significant transactions being notified and investigated by the Spanish competition authorities. The introduction of undertakings seems a pragmatic way of clearing mergers which impose no major obstacles to the maintenance of effective competition. Making the procedure more transparent and the express reference in the Decree to a 'guidance' procedure before the SDC are also welcome. However, the retention of market shares as one of the alternative thresholds for jurisdiction in a compulsory notification regime is not in line with other European merger control regimes, under which market share thresholds, because of the difficulty of defining markets and the legal uncertainty that this creates, are rarely used, or, as in Belgium, have recently been dropped. Finally, in order to avoid confusion the new definition of 'concentrations' should have been accompanied by a definition of 'control'.