Germany: New Notification Threshold In Germany Reduces Risks To Offshore Transactions

Germany has introduced a new threshold for premerger notifications to its merger control system, effective tomorrow, 25 March 2009. This amendment to the German Act Against Restraints Of Competition (ARC) is expected to reduce the number of merger control filings in Germany dramatically. In particular, the amendment will provide (limited) relief for the parties to offshore transactions, although enforcement risks remain for transactions to which the ARC still applies.

Filing criteria currently in force

German merger control is mandatory. If a transaction meets the ARC filing criteria, the parties must delay closing their transaction until the FCO has cleared it. In the past, a merger control filing was required already if (i) one party generated revenues of more than 25 million euros in Germany and (ii) both parties generated combined revenues of more than 500 million euros worldwide. These thresholds apply to the consolidated total revenues of the groups of companies to which the direct parties to the transaction belong, in their last fiscal year.

These filing thresholds have frequently resulted in filing requirements for transactions that have no or only an insignificant connection to competition in Germany. This was because the 25 million euro threshold for sales in Germany could be satisfied by one party alone, either the buyer or the target. There was no separate revenue test for the German turnover of the other party to the transaction. In theory, the ARC requires – in addition to the revenue thresholds being satisfied – that the transaction affect competition in Germany. In practice, this "effects tests" is meaningless. The criteria of the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) are so broad as to attach competitive effects to virtually any offshore transaction. In addition, the FCO's guidelines are ambivalent and have left business in many cases with no choice but to file.

Compliance risks involved

The broad extra-territorial application of German merger control raises significant compliance risks:

  • The FCO recently imposed substantial fines on parties to M&A transactions that – in the FCO's view – failed to comply with the ARC's procedural requirements. The FCO determines the amount of a fine on the basis of the revenues of the parties to the transaction, multiplied by the number of years in which the parties were in non-compliance (for example, the number of years that the buyer has owned shares in the other business without required FCO clearance).
  • The acquisition of shares or assets for which FCO clearance was required, but was not obtained, is not legally enforceable in Germany. The FCO no longer accepts corrective filings, that is, post-closing submissions where the acquirer has only realized after closing that a filing was required. Therefore, currently there is no way to "cure" a legally defective acquisition and to obtain retroactive effect.
  • The extraterritorial application of German merger control does not only relate to acquisitions of control. Any acquisition of a "competitively significant influence" over another business may trigger the ARC's applicability. The FCO recently applied this ARC provision to the acquisition of a 14% minority share ownership and to the right to appoint one member of the supervisory board of another business.

The new revenues test

As of tomorrow, in addition to the 500 million and the 25 million euro tests, one of the parties must have generated revenues of more than 5 million euros in Germany (while the other party's German revenues satisfy the 25 million euro test). As a result, transactions will only be subject to reporting in Germany if both parties have substantial business interests in Germany.

The Ministry in charge of the amendment anticipates that the amendment will reduce the FCO's revenue stream through filing fees by at least 1.4 million euros per year. The more significant effect on the FCO's daily business will be that the FCO will be able to shift further resources from merger control to its ongoing fight against cartels. Following a recent re-organization of the FCO, it currently has three units exclusively assigned to cartels, dawn raids, and related sanctions.

Given the size of the German economy, however, revenues of 5 million euros are not much of a hurdle. Most other EC Member Sates have significantly higher thresholds for either party's local sales (such as 50 million euros in France). Nonetheless, the Government estimates that the new 5 million euro test will reduce the number of merger control filings by about one third (in 2007, the FCO reviewed 2,240 merger submissions).

More importantly, for the majority of transactions, businesses can now determine if they have to file a transaction for the FCO's review solely on the basis of their revenues in Germany. The new threshold, therefore, will significantly reduce compliance risks. Issues remain in relation to multi-party transactions, such as when JVs are formed, where the assessment of a filing and clearance requirement in Germany will continue to be necessary on the basis of the FCO's overly extensive and ambivalent criteria.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions