December 27, 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.

AMC wins U.S. antitrust approval to buy Carmike Cinemas with conditions. AMC Entertainment Holdings won U.S. antitrust approval with conditions to buy smaller competitor Carmike Cinemas Inc in a $1.2 billion deal that would create the biggest U.S. movie theater chain.  The U.S. Justice Department said it approved the deal on condition that AMC and Carmike divest theaters in 15 markets and take steps to ensure that National Cinemedia and Screenvision, the two companies that make and sell pre-show advertising entertainment, remain viable.  Kansas-based AMC, which is majority-owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, has about 380 theaters, while Georgia-based Carmike has 276 theaters, according to their websites.

American Airlines wins $15 million in antitrust case against Sabre. American Airlines Group Inc won about $15.3 million in an antitrust lawsuit that accused airline booking service Sabre Corp of harming competition and charging grossly inflated booking fees.  The Manhattan federal jury awarded nearly $5.1 million, a fraction of the up to $73 million American Airlines was seeking at trial.  But the sum automatically will be tripled under federal antitrust law.

G.M.’s Venture in China Fined $29 Million Under Antimonopoly Law. General Motors’s main joint venture in China was fined $29 million on Friday on charges that it suppressed competition by enforcing minimum sales prices for dealers.  It is the latest in a string of penalties against non-Chinese auto brands under the country’s antimonopoly law.  Chinese regulators have punished companies in several industries, like milk and medical devices, under the 2008 law in what appears to be an effort to force down consumer prices.

Rite Aid to sell 865 stores to Fred’s. Rite Aid Corp said it would sell 865 stores to Fred’s Inc for $950 million to satisfy antitrust concerns over its proposed takeover by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.  Rite Aid and Walgreens were widely expected to divest stores in states where the combined company would have a particularly strong position.  Walgreens has 13,200 stores, nearly 60 percent of which are in the United States, while Rite Aid has 4,570 stores in the United States.  Walgreens said in October 2015 it would buy smaller peer Rite Aid for $9.4 billion to widen its U.S. footprint.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    December 12, 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.

    E.U. Fines Three Banks About $520 Million for Interest Rate Collusion.  European antitrust regulators on Wednesday fined Crédit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase a total of just over 485 million euros for colluding to fix benchmark interest rates tied to the euro.  The penalties, equivalent to about $520 million, came more than two years after the European authorities issued a statement of objections — a formal step in antitrust investigations — against the three banks.  The inquiry began in 2011.

    On Antitrust, Trump Signals a Return to the Bush Years.  As self-styled populist Donald Trump prepares to take office, sector-shaping mergers in media and health care stand poised to remake huge swaths of the nation’s economy, prompting concern among Democrats and Republicans about how consumers may be affected.  Anthem is pursuing a $54 billion purchase of Cigna to create the nation’s largest health insurance company, Aetna is angling to acquire Humana for $37 billion, and AT&T hopes to complete an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner – transactions that together would amount to 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.  Despite his populist rhetoric on the campaign trail, Trump’s appointments suggest he’ll pursue fewer protections for consumers.

    Aetna CEO Defends Merger with Humana in Antitrust Trial.  Aetna’s chief executive denied on Friday that Aetna’s withdrawal from some Obamacare exchanges was in retaliation for government efforts to halt its merger with Humana, as he sought to convince a federal judge to approve the deal.  The U.S. Justice Department sued to stop the $34 billion tie-up in July, saying that it and another insurance mega merger, Anthem’s planned purchase of Cigna, would mean higher prices and worse service for many consumers.

    Alaska Airlines Settles Lawsuit Against Virgin America Deal.  Alaska Airlines has removed its last major hurdle to buying Virgin America.  Alaska said Wednesday it agreed to settle a private antitrust lawsuit that threatened to hold up its $2.6 billion purchase of Virgin America.  The settlement came a day after the U.S. Justice Department approved the purchase, but only after Alaska agreed to scale back a partnership it has with American Airlines on some routes.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

      November 28, 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.

      Trump Picks Regulation Opponents to Lead FCC Transition.  President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of experts to focus on new policies at the Federal Communications Commission signals a regime that will have a “lighter” touch on regulation and be more likely to favor large mergers in telecoms industries, analysts said.  Economist Jeff Eisenach and former Sprint Corp lobbyist Mark Jamison were named by Trump’s transition team to oversee hiring and policy for the FCC.  They both oppose some recent telecom industry regulations resisted by telecom and cable heavyweights, such as Comcast Corp and AT&T Inc, and have voiced support for mega mergers in the past.

      Exclusive: Microsoft Set to Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy – Sources.  Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday.  Microsoft told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn’s rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition.

      U.S. Court Upholds AstraZeneca, Ranbaxy Win in Nexium Antitrust Trial.  A U.S. appeals court upheld AstraZeneca Plc and Ranbaxy Laboratories’ victory in a lawsuit accusing them of reaching an illegal deal to delay the launch of a generic version of AstraZeneca’s heartburn drug Nexium.  A panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston refused to throw out a December 2014 jury verdict in favor of AstraZeneca and Ranbaxy, which was acquired in March 2015 by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

      Anthem Argues Fortune 500 Will Not Suffer from Cigna Deal.  Anthem Inc. and the U.S. Justice Department dug in their heels in court over whether the lower prices the health insurer expects to negotiate after buying smaller rival Cigna Corp are an efficiency that benefits customers or an antitrust violation.  In the first phase of what could be a two-stage trial, a lawyer for Anthem argued that the $45-billion deal, which was announced more than a year ago, would create a new, bigger insurer with the power to push down prices that it would pass onto customers.  But the Justice Department argued that any cost cuts would come from Anthem using its clout in the market to force hospitals and doctors to work for less.

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      Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        November 14, 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.

        Trump’s Policies May Bring Fresh Wave of Deals.  With a man who is co-author of “The Art of the Deal” as president-elect, deal making can be expected to increase.  This rise will be determined by whether a Trump administration can govern with stability.  And then there is the biggest factor these days in deals — antitrust.  It all means that the long-term forces now pushing companies toward making deals are likely to continue, but with some big caveats, namely whether Mr. Trump can govern from a position of stability and consistency.

        Google Lawyer Says Android Helps Rather Than Harms Competition.  Google’s Android mobile operating system boosts competition rather than hurts it, the company’s general counsel said on Thursday, in a rebuttal of EU antitrust charges that it uses the platform to crush rivals.  The comments by Google general counsel Kent Walker on a blog came a week after the U.S. technology group rejected two other EU accusations of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking competitors in online search advertising.  The Android case could potentially be the most damaging for Google.

        U.S. Senate Panel Urges FTC to Launch Antitrust Probe of Mylan.  The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee urged federal antitrust regulators on Monday to launch a probe into whether EpiPen maker Mylan broke the law by preventing schools from purchasing competing allergy treatments.  The bipartisan request to the Federal Trade Commission by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy comes just a few weeks before the committee is slated to convene a hearing to scrutinize a pending $465 million settlement that Mylan has said will resolve claims it underpaid rebates to state and federal Medicaid programs.

        U.S. Urges Court to Overturn AmEx Antitrust Decision.  The U.S. government on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent antitrust decision allowing American Express to stop merchants from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees.  In its Sept. 26 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that had struck down AmEx’s “anti-steering” rules.  At issue are the more than $50 billion of fees that merchants pay annually to process transactions.

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        Categories: Antitrust Legislation, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

          November 7, 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.

          A New Movement in Liberal Economics that Could Shape Hillary Clinton’s Agenda.  If you want to know what economic policy would look like in a Hillary Clinton administration, you can read her speeches or policy positions or look at the backgrounds of the advisers she surrounds herself with.

          But it’s also worth examining a 21-page briefing paper issued on Oct. 25 by Obama White House economists about an important concept with a forbidding name: labor market monopsony.  The paper is a prime example of the direction left-of-center economic policy is going, evident not just in the Obama administration’s second-term priorities but in a range of work at liberal think tanks and in Mrs. Clinton’s own economic proposals.

          Google Formally Rejects EU Antitrust Charge.  Google on Thursday formally rejected European Union antitrust charges of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking rivals in online search advertising, paving the way for EU regulators to rule next year on these issues and potentially impose hefty fines.  The U.S. technology giant’s rebuttal in the shopping case came six years after the European Commission opened an investigation prompted by complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and a host of European and U.S. rivals.

          News of Charges in Price-Fixing Inquiry Sends Pharmaceuticals Tumbling.  The generic drug industry was jolted on Thursday as shares of many major companies tumbled after a news report said that a federal inquiry into drug price-fixing was wider than previously believed and could lead to charges by the end of the year.  Shares in Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest generic drug maker, fell more than 9 percent, and the stock of competitors like Mylan, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Impax Laboratories had similar declines.  The report, from Bloomberg, said that the investigation, being done by the Justice Department, was looking at more than a dozen companies, and that the prices of about two dozen drugs were involved.

          U.S. Tentatively Grants Antitrust Approval for Delta, Aeromexico Alliance.  The U.S. Transportation Department said Friday it has tentatively granted antitrust immunity for a proposed alliance between Delta Air Lines Inc and Grupo Aeromexico SAB de CV, requiring the carriers to divest some slots in New York and Mexico City.  The airlines plan to operate a joint venture between the U.S. and Mexico.  The U.S. Transportation Department is proposing the carriers divest enough takeoff and landing authorizations to allow 24 new daily international flights from Mexico City and six new daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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