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UK’s CMA Tackled Highest Share Of Deals Worldwide

 |  March 3, 2020

The UK has emerged as the most aggressive antitrust enforcer worldwide after it frustrated the highest proportion of deals in the past five years and ramped up the fines it imposed, new figures reveal.

The Competition and Markets Authority, which is seeking tougher powers after Brexit, thwarted 6 per cent of the deals it assessed over the past five years, according to a new report by law firm Allen & Overy. That compares with less than 1 per cent of deals scrutinised by the US and Germany.

Last year the CMA thwarted eight deals in the UK — three of which were prohibited and five abandoned. It only blocked one merger in 2018. The authority has also increased the fines it levied relating to procedural infringements from one fine of £20,000 in 2017 to a total of £778,000 of fines last year.

The findings come weeks after Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, told the Financial Times that the British watchdog was seeking a more active role in scrutinising large mergers and tackling anti-competitive behaviour.
Industry insiders expect this trend to continue; the CMA has decided to provisionally prohibit three deals, including the proposed merger of travel services company Sabre and Farelogix and JD Sports’ proposed £90m takeover of Footasylum.

Antonio Bavasso, partner at Allen & Overy, said the push by the UK competition authority to frustrate mergers follows accusations from academic circles that enforcers have been too lenient in recent years.

He added that Brexit was likely to propel the CMA to take more action. He said: “After the transition period the UK is expected to continue this trajectory of tough enforcement. Internationally they will also hope to have a seat at the table in which their voice on international mergers is more distinctly heard.
“The CMA will not be shy of making tough decisions even if there is a political price,” he added.

Full Content: Financial Times

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