The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (the "CCPC") was established on 31 October 2014, combining the former Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. The CCPC has published its first annual report relating to the period from its establishment to 31 December 2015. This provides an insight into how the new agency has operated so far and where its priorities may lie going forward.
WHAT TRENDS HAVE EMERGED?
The number of notifiable mergers has increased: The CCPC reviewed 88 mergers during the period covered, up significantly from 48 in the previous corresponding period. The CCPC recognised two reasons for this. First, the lower financial threshold of 3 million for the mandatory notification of mergers meant a greater number of lower value mergers were notified. Second, there has been an increase in mergers and acquisition activity generally both at a national and international level as economic activity recovers.
Reviews of notifiable mergers can take longer: The CCPC now has 30 working days at Phase 1 to review a merger as opposed to previously being allowed just one calendar month. However, on average, the CCPC dealt with Phase 1 cases in approximately 24 working days.
A significant number of allegations were received: The CCPC reviewed 74 allegations of competition law breaches and began two large-scale formal investigations.
WHAT WERE THE KEY MERGER CONTROL CASES?
Baxter Healthcare / Fannin Compounding: This was the first notified merger in the State to be cleared on the basis of the "failing firm" defence. After a detailed investigation involving third party and expert evidence, the CCPC concluded that the competitive structure of the relevant market would deteriorate to at least the same extent in the absence of the proposed acquisition. While the transaction resulted in the combination of the only two suppliers in the market for the commercial supply of compounded chemotherapy medicines, the CCPC found that the counterfactual would also result in only a single supplier remaining, but with the additional disadvantage for consumers that the failure of Fannin Compounding would have seen its assets leave the market.
Topaz Investments Limited / Esso Ireland Limited: The acquisition by Topaz Investments Limited of Esso Ireland Limited was cleared by the CCPC at Phase 2 subject to Topaz giving a binding commitment to divest a number of the businesses being acquired, including three retail service stations in the...