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Toys ‘R’ Us settles with states, FTC appeal continues

Premium - 01 June 1999

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc has reached a US$40.5 million cash-and-merchandise settlement with attorneys general from 44 states, but says this will have no impact on its pending appeal of a Federal Trade Commission antitrust suit.

Sweden: Rulings on cooperation between forestry companies

Premium - 01 June 1999

The Market Court has recently passed judgment in a number of cases containing interesting issues from a competition law point of view. Unfortunately, the judgments show a marked reluctance on the part of the Court to provide useful legal guidance as regards the interpretation of the Competition Act.

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'.

Romania: Competition Law faces privatisations

Premium - 01 June 1999

The provisions of Law 21/1996 are largely inspired by European regulations. The privatisation programme in Romania has led to a significant increase of the Council’s caseload. Nevertheless, it has to deal with modern competition issues such as energy and telecommunications within the context of major restructuring in the industrial and banking sectors, as required by the IMF. The communication of the turnover figures is critical as they provide the basis for calculating the authorisation tax, which is fixed at 0.1 per cent of the aggregate turnover of the parties involved. Set out in the published decision, this tax also reveals the parties’ turnover.

Germany: New rules offer greater scope for conditional merger clearances

Premium - 01 June 1999

Under the previous practice of the FCO, remedies were possible both prior to merger clearance and in the form of undertakings to be implemented post-clearance. The latter undertakings were usually in the form of a contract concluded between the merging parties and the FCO. However, the FCO was very reluctant to accept such undertakings, as enforcement can be difficult after a merger is fully implemented.

Panama: Parties preparing pleadings in first competition case

Premium - 01 June 1999

Since it came into force in November 1996, much has been written in Panama about Law 29 on Free Competition, but so far no company has been penalised for anticompetitive practices. This may change in the near future as the Comisión de Libre Competencia y Asuntos del Consumidor prepares to fight the first competition case ever brought to court in Panamanian history.

Linklaters hires Gide partner

Premium - 01 June 1999

The head of Gide Loyrette Nouel’s Brussels office, Olivier D’Ormesson, is leaving the firm to join the Linklaters & Alliance competition team in Brussels. The date of D’Ormesson’s move has yet to be finalised but is expected within the next month. He is expected to be bringing at least one associate from his team to Linklaters. D’Ormesson’s departure comes as the latest in a series of moves by French lawyers to large Anglo-Saxon firms.

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.

Czech Republic: Government seeks to enhance telecoms competition with third mobile phone operator

Premium - 01 June 1999

The Czech government wishes to increase competition in the telecommunications sector and will hold a tender to select a third mobile telephone operator in the Czech Republic.

Argentina: YPF fined for anti-competitive pricing policy

Premium - 01 June 1999

The prosecution of YPF for anticompetitive practices has sent a signal to industry in general that the Argentine government is serious about competition policy.