May 23, 2016

The Antitrust Week In Review

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

Bayer Offers to Buy Monsanto in Global Agrochemicals Shakeout.  German drugs and chemicals group Bayer has made an unsolicited takeover proposal to U.S. seeds company Monsanto, seeking to create the world’s biggest agricultural supplier and take advantage of converging pesticides and seeds markets.  Monsanto disclosed the approach on Wednesday before Bayer confirmed its move, though neither released proposed terms.  The $42 billion market capitalization of Monsanto means that the deal would be likely to eclipse ChemChina’s planned acquisition of Swiss agrichemicals company Syngenta – a target Monsanto itself pursued last year – and could face U.S. antitrust hurdles.

Ill-Fated Strategy in Staples-Office Depot Deal.  A federal judge’s order ending the planned merger of Staples and Office Depot took many in the antitrust community by surprise, but only slightly more so than the decision of the lead defense lawyer to rest without presenting evidence.  That unsuccessful strategy came as the vigor in federal merger enforcement had apparently been revived, and even exaggerated, even though this deal was in so many other ways big and audacious.  The ruling ending the merger was released on Tuesday, and it strongly endorses competition and antitrust.

2nd Circuit Rejects Antitrust Case Over Acorda Citizen Petition.  A federal appeals court tossed an antitrust lawsuit by generic drug maker Apotex Inc accusing Acorda Therapeutics of filing a citizen petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to suppress competition for its muscle relaxant drug Zanaflex.   A unanimous panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the fact that the FDA had granted Apotex’s application to make a generic version of Zanaflex capsules the same day it denied Acorda’s citizen petition opposing the application did not create an inference that Acorda’s petition had delayed approval.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

    May 16, 2016

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Google Faces Record 3 Billion Euro EU Antitrust Fine: Telegraph.  Google faces a record antitrust fine of about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) from the European Commission in the coming weeks, according to the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph.  The European Union has accused Google of promoting its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival services in a case that has dragged on since late 2010.  The Telegraph cited sources close to the situation as saying officials planned to announce the fine as early as next month.

    Office Depot and Staples Call Off Merger After Judge Blocks It.  A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a $6.3 billion proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot, dashing another huge deal and handing the Obama administration one more antitrust victory.  The decision is a setback for the beleaguered retailers, which have each endured years of slumping sales and increased competition from Amazon and other rivals.  The Federal Trade Commission had sued the two companies late last year, arguing that combining them would effectively create just one dominant retailer focused on pens, paper clips and Post-it notes.  Both companies said after the ruling that they planned to end their merger plans.

    FTC Taking Second Look at Google Search: Politico.  Federal Trade Commission officials are asking questions again about whether Alphabet Inc’s Google has abused its dominance in the Internet search market, Politico reported, citing sources familiar with the discussions.  The FTC’s senior antitrust officials have discussed the matter in recent months with representatives of a major U.S. company, which objects to Google’s practices, Politico reported.

    E.U. Regulators Block Merger of British Mobile Carriers on Competition Grounds.  European antitrust officials on Wednesday rebuffed renewed efforts to consolidate the region’s telecommunications sector, blocking a proposed $14.5 billion deal between two major British carriers.  Under the proposed deal, Hutchison Whampoa, one of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s flagship companies, which owns the British operator Three, had sought to acquire O2, a rival in Britain owned by the Spanish telecom giant Telefónica.  But Europe’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, said the deal would limit consumer choice and could raise prices in Britain.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      May 9, 2016

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

      Cigna Says Anthem Deal Could Close in 2017; Anthem Sticks to 2016.  Health insurer Cigna Corp, which announced plans to be bought by larger Anthem Inc 10 months ago, on Friday said the deal may close in 2017 rather than 2016 due to the complexity of the regulatory process, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Cigna-Anthem deal, which raises serious antitrust issues given that it would create the nation’s largest health insurer.

      Halliburton and Baker Hughes Call Off $35 Billion Merger.  For a year and a half, Halliburton and Baker Hughes, two big oil field services companies, had been focused on their $35 billion merger.  That distraction, even as commodity prices deteriorated and their peers cut costs to survive, is finally over.  The two companies announced that they would terminate the merger after an excruciatingly long regulatory review process that culminated in a lawsuit last month by the Justice Department to block the deal on antitrust grounds.

      Bankers Say U.S. Antitrust Concerns Weigh on Deal Activity.  Antitrust concerns are preventing corporations from pursuing mergers more than other broad regulatory or economic issues, several senior investment bankers said during a panel on Tuesday at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference.  “It’s that increasingly high bar that we’re seeing from an anti-trust perspective,” said Paul Stefanick, Deutsche Bank AG’s head of corporate and investment banking in the Americas.  Stefanick said doubts about whether deals can pass muster with antitrust regulators are a bigger barrier to deals than uncertainties like the outcome of November’s U.S. election.

      FCC Confirms Approval of Charter, Time Warner Cable Merger.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission confirmed on Friday that it had voted to approve Charter Communications Inc’s acquisitions of Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House Networks.  The deals, which would create the second-largest U.S. broadband provider and third-largest video provider, now need approval from regulators in California.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, General

        May 2, 2016

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

        AB InBev to Sell More SAB Assets as Seeks EU Deal Approval.  Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to sell the eastern European assets of SABMiller, which could fetch almost $8 billion, as it seeks European regulatory approval for its $100 billion-plus takeover of its closest rival.  AB InBev has already lined up Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings to buy SABMiller’s Grolsch, Peroni and Meantime brands for 2.55 billion euros ($2.90 billion), and said on Friday it had put up for sale SABMiller’s business in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.  AB InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, has barely any business in eastern Europe outside Russia and Ukraine, so analysts say the sale is more about preventing regulatory delays and exiting weak spots than ensuring market competition.

        Regulators Approve Charter Communications Deal for Time Warner Cable.  Federal regulators have moved to approve Charter Communications’ $65.5 billion acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, enabling the creation of a new cable giant as the industry focuses more on broadband as traditional TV declines.  However, the orders to approve the deals are coupled with many restrictions that illustrate how regulators are increasingly using their power to further policy goals that are not covered by current regulations for the industry.  The Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department imposed mandates on the acquisitions aimed at protecting streaming video companies and providing cheaper broadband services to low-income families, some of which go far beyond regulations for the entire cable and Internet sectors.

        Markit, ISDA Offer Concessions to Settle EU Antitrust Charges.  The European Commission has revealed that Data company Markit and trade body ISDA have offered concessions in a bid to settle EU antitrust charges and stave off possible fines.  The competition authority three years ago charged the two companies and 13 banks with blocking Deutsche Boerse from the lucrative credit derivatives market in 2007 and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2008.  The Commission dropped the banks from the case in December because of insufficient evidence but Markit and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, which represents firms involved in the derivatives market, remained in its sights.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          April 25, 2016

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

          EU Regulators Set to Warn Halliburton on Baker Hughes Deal: Sources.  European Union antitrust regulators are planning to warn U.S. oil industry services group Halliburton Co that its plan to buy Baker Hughes will hurt competition, according to sources.  The move would add to Halliburton’s woes after the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit this month to stop the deal because the combined company would only compete with Schlumberger NV in 20 business lines in the global well drilling and oil industry construction services industry.  Such a warning typically means the EU watchdog is poised to block a merger unless companies provide concessions to address its concerns.

          Microsoft and Google Agree to Drop Mutual Complaints.  Microsoft and Google have agreed to withdraw complaints against each other with regulators around the world, as the two American tech giants continued recent efforts to settle the once-bitter conflicts between them.  The two companies also said they would try to resolve future squabbles before complaining to regulators, as they have in the past.

          Trading Start-Up Files Antitrust Lawsuit in New York.  Derivatives trading start-up TeraExchange has filed an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that some of the biggest banks in the world conspired to block customers from using its service.  The suit charges that 12 banks conspired to keep investors from trading interest rates swaps on its platform, which was founded in 2010.  Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, RBS and UBS were named in the suit.

          Glaxo, Other Drug Makers Appeal UK Fines for Pay-to-Delay Deals.  GlaxoSmithKline is appealing a $54.5 million fine that was recently levied by UK regulators for illegally conspiring with several generic rivals to delay marketing of a lower-cost version of its Paxil antidepressant.  The generic manufacturers were also fined a total of about $7 million and are appealing those decisions, as well.  The appeals come two months after the UK Competitions and Market Authority found that between 2001 and 2004, Glaxo made payments totaling about $72 million to several generic companies as part of a settlement to end patent litigation that was filed by Glaxo against the generic drug makers.  In its appeal, Glaxo argued that the UK regulators failed to prove the deals restricted competition and that its own tactics did not constitute abuse of a dominant position in the market for antidepressants.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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