The first half of 2019 saw a sharp drop in the number of filings to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“CCPC”). Only 17 filings were made in this period, in contrast with 50 filings in the first half of 2018. Matheson has advised on 30% of CCPC filings this year. This drop reflects the following new financial thresholds for mandatory CCPC filings, which came into effect on 1 January 2019 as noted in our article last year:
(i) €60,000,000 aggregate Irish turnover (sum of turnover
all undertakings involved); and
(ii) €10,000,000 individual Irish turnover (by at least two of the undertakings involved).
The previous financial thresholds were €50,000,000 and €3,000,0000 and all thresholds relate to turnover in the last financial year prior to the merger.
The CCPC had estimated that the threshold change would reduce the number of filings by up to 40%. It is not clear whether the much higher 65% year-on-year drop that we have seen in H1 2019 shows that the CCPC underestimated the impact of the threshold change or that other factors are at play.
As of 1 July 2019, 11 out of 17 notified mergers have received unconditional CCPC clearance after a standard Phase I review period. Only one of these 17 mergers (a “media merger” involving newspapers) is going through an extended Phase I review process (M/19/010 – FormPress Publishing (Iconic)/assets of Midland Tribune) and none of these 17 mergers have been subject to a Phase 2 review or a conditional CCPC clearance.
Three “media mergers” have been notified to the CCPC in 2019. By way of reminder (see our article), all “media mergers” must be notified to the CCPC, and subsequently to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, irrespective of the turnover of the undertakings involved (eg, the relevant target or joint venture could have no turnover or presence in Ireland).
The average Phase 1 review period in the first half of 2019 was 24 working days, the same as in 2018, as against a statutory deadline of 30 working days.
The new financial thresholds have been welcomed as removing the need to notify mergers which were unlikely to present competition concerns.
It remains to be seen if the sharp drop in the CCPC’s merger case load will result in the CCPC completing merger reviews more quickly and/or to investing additional resources in other activities including competition law enforcement.
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