Decline in mergers notified to competition watchdog

Decline in mergers notified to competition watchdog

A total of 68 mergers were notified to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in 2022, a 16 per cent decrease from 81 in 2021, according to its annual merger report.

All mergers and acquisitions which reach certain financial thresholds must be notified to the CCPC. The CCPC examines whether any notified transaction could result in the substantial lessening of competition in markets for goods and services in the State.

In 2022, the watchdog issued 70 determinations, four of which required commitments to secure approval. Seven Phase 2 investigations were completed.

The most prominent sector for notifications was professional services (including legal, accountancy, consulting, engineering, veterinary, etc.) with nine.

The CCPC also prohibited a proposed acquisition in 2022 — the proposed acquisition of pharmacy solutions business NaviCorp Limited by healthcare services provider Uniphar PLC — for the first time since 2008. This was the fourth-ever prohibition under the Competition Act 2002 and the first since the establishment of the CCPC in 2014.

In addition, one proposed merger, between East Cork Oil and Misty Lane, was withdrawn by the parties towards the end of Phase 2 before a final decision was made.

Brian McHugh, member of the CCPC, said: “This year, the CCPC celebrated twenty years of the Competition Act 2002. In that time, almost 1,200 mergers have been reviewed. Each investigation brought its own challenges and the experience gained in the last twenty years continues to influence our future approach.

“2022 was a very significant year for mergers in Ireland. Although the total number of notified mergers was lower than 2021, we saw increasingly complex mergers notified, as evidenced by the unprecedented number of mergers which were subject to Phase 2 merger investigations. These Phase 2 cases invariably require thorough and comprehensive investigations before a determination can be made.

“In publishing its banking decisions, the CCPC took the opportunity to raise concerns in relation to the overall competitiveness of the banking sector in Ireland and has continued to engage with the Department of Finance and the Central Bank on these matters. The CCPC also gave careful consideration within the merger review process on how to mitigate the impact on consumers and SMEs through remedies where appropriate.

“For only the fourth time since 2002, a decision was made to prohibit a proposed acquisition. In other cases, significant commitments were secured from the parties involved to ensure any competition concerns were allayed.

“We look forward to the forthcoming commencement of the Competition (Amendment) Act and the changes it will bring to the merger review process. The new powers will enhance our ability to ensure open competitive markets that work in the interests of consumers, businesses and all of Irish society.”

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