Global Competition Review (GCR) has today published its nominations of anti-trust cases, lawyers, economists and enforcers for the GCR Awards 2018. Frontier’s economists advised on five of the merger control and litigation matters that have been nominated for awards, across Europe as well as the Asia-Pacific region.
GCR is a global anti-trust and competition law journal and news service, which awards teams and individuals for creative, innovative and strategic work in the field of competition and anti-trust every year. The winners will be decided through voting, and announced at the GCR 8th Annual Awards Ceremony on 10 April in Washington, DC. The cases that Frontier has worked on in 2017 that have been nominated are:
- The merger of Tesco and Booker in the UK grocery sector, which brought together two leading players at different levels of the value chain. Tesco is the country’s largest retailer and Booker is the largest wholesaler. Frontier advised both Tesco and Booker throughout the process on issues of strategy, synergies assessment and competition engagement. Frontier’s analysis helped demonstrate that this was a ‘vertical’ rather than a ‘horizontal’ merger, in that Booker does not own or control any of the independent retailers that it supplies, who are free to set their prices and decide which products to stock. The CMA also recognised for the first time that discounters should be included in the grocery market analysis, as opposed to competing in a separate market; and concluded that “competition is sufficiently strong in both the wholesale and retail grocery sectors to ensure that the merger between Tesco and Booker will not lead to higher prices or a reduced service for supermarket and convenience shoppers”.
- The merger of UK online takeaway platforms Just Eat and Hungryhouse, which won unconditional clearance from the UK’s CMA following an in-depth Phase II investigation. Frontier advised Just Eat during the merger investigation process, where the CMA used an economic framework that differed from conventional approaches due to the distinctive characteristics of the two-sided takeaway market. These required different arguments to be made – for instance, that firms with horizontally-identical business models may not be close competitors in a vertical sense; and that the existence of strong indirect network effects (where the attractiveness of a platform to one side of the market depends on the number of participants on the other side) inevitably means that there are high barriers to entry for firms with identical business models to pre-existing players, but with smaller numbers of buyers and sellers.
- The merger of India’s second- and third-largest retail mobile operators, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, in the Asia-Pacific region. Frontier advised Vodafone India during the merger process. Having considered the evidence put forward by the merging parties, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) concluded that the proposed transaction was not likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India, primarily because of the significant constraint from consumer switching and churn.
- Walter Merricks v Mastercard – nominated in the “Litigation of the year – Non-cartel defence” category – was a £14 billion consumer class action claim against the interchange fees paid as part of the MasterCard scheme. Frontier provided advice to MasterCard on the case. This case was dismissed by the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) following an application for a collective proceedings order.
- Unwired Planet v Huawei – nominated in the “Matter of the Year” category – was an abuse-of-dominance dispute regarding the licensing of standard essential patents. Frontier provided expert evidence on behalf of Ericsson in relation to claims that its sale of a portfolio of mobile telephony standard essential patents to Unwired Planet was anticompetitive. The cases have now been settled.
Frontier regularly advises companies and regulators on competition and anti-trust issues in various sectors.
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