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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  June 1, 2020

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

EU’s Vestager denies making Lufthansa bailout more difficult.  EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager denied on Friday that she was putting hurdles in the way of Lufthansa’s $10 billion government rescue, saying companies getting big capital injections from the state have to offset their competitive advantage. Vestager wants Lufthansa to permanently give up some take-off and landing slots at Frankfurt and Munich airports, where it commands a two-thirds market share, in return for giving the green light to the German government taking a 20% stake in the airline. Lufthansa’s board, however, has rejected her demands. Berlin plans to inject 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) of new capital, most of it non-voting, into the airline, combined with 3 billion euros in state-backed loans.

Air Canada, Transat deal faces intense EU antitrust scrutiny.  Air Canada’s bid for Canadian tour operator Transat AT Inc. may result in higher prices and less choice for flights between Europe and Canada, EU antitrust regulators said as they opened a full-scale investigation into the deal. Montreal-based Air Canada is hoping Transat will boost its leisure travel business and help it better compete with rival WestJet Airlines WJA.TO. The European Commission said the deal could significantly reduce competition on 33 routes between Europe and Canada. The EU antitrust enforcer said other European airlines were just distant competitors and that WestJet was not a sufficiently strong rival.

Appeals Court Sides With Tech Giants in Activists’ Lawsuit.  A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused Twitter, Facebook and other tech giants of conspiring to stifle the political views of a far-right activist and a conservative nonprofit. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Laura Loomer and Freedom Watch Inc. don’t have any viable claims that the companies violated their First Amendment free speech rights. In November 2018, Loomer handcuffed herself to the front doors of Twitter headquarters in New York after the company banned her. The company permanently suspended Loomer’s account, which had more than 260,000 followers, after she tweeted that Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, is “anti Jewish” and supports Sharia law.

LATAM Becomes Largest Airline Driven to Bankruptcy by Coronavirus.  LATAM Airlines Group, the continent’s largest carrier, filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, becoming the world’s largest carrier so far to seek an emergency reorganization due to the coronavirus pandemic. The filing highlights the financial weakness of Latin America’s carriers, following a similar bankruptcy earlier this month by the region’s No. 2 airline, Avianca Holdings. One of the world’s largest airlines, LATAM said it would continue to fly through its bankruptcy restructuring. LATAM said its bankruptcy filing would seek to expedite the timeline for the necessary antitrust approvals for it and Delta to coordinate flight routes between Latin America and the United States.

Edited by Gary Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues,