26 September 2023

ACCC concerned at cross-country mergers

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has stated that competition authorities around the world are having to deal with a surge in ever-more-complex global mergers, demonstrating the need for continued strong collaboration between them.

Delivering a keynote address at the International Chamber of Commerce and International Bar Association Forum in Berlin, Chair of the ACCC, Gina Cass-Gottlieb said many of the global transactions appeared increasingly complex in their transaction structures, the competition issues involved, and in some of the remedies being offered.

“It is clear that some merger parties are focusing their clearance efforts on a particular jurisdiction and then appear to be marking time until they secure clearance in that key jurisdiction,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb ( pictured) said.

“My observation is that this tactic simply slows the entire process down. As recent evidence shows, Agencies make independent decisions and so can reach different conclusions even if they have engaged constructively with each other during their processes.”

She said that by cooperating, competition Agencies worldwide benefited from the sharing of information to assess the same or similar conduct, and from more efficient investigations.

She said this also helped reduce the regulatory burden on businesses operating internationally.

“The ACCC sees collaboration with our international counterparts as a key component of our effectiveness as a regulator,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Regulators across the world have been highly conscious of the impact COVID-19 has had on consumers, business and markets and, where appropriate, factored these circumstances into their consideration of competition matters in the short term to assist businesses to remain viable in the long term.”

She said ACCC firmly believed that COVID-19 should not result in lowering standards against which mergers were ultimately assessed or competition law enforcement was taken.

“Our merger assessments remain rightly focused on the long-term consequences of a merger and will not allow short-term market features, including those produced by the pandemic, to outweigh these considerations,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“A competitive economy is critical to our collective future, so as much as possible we need to ensure any changes to the competitive landscape are temporary and limited to what is necessary,” she said.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb’s full speech can be accessed on the ACCC website at this PS News link.

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