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Ireland has Record Breaking Year for Merger Notifications in 2018: Irish Merger Control Review

AUTHORs: Kate McKenna DATE: 04/01/2019

The highest ever number of antitrust merger notifications (98 in total), was made to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“CCPC”) in 2018.

 This compares to 72 notifications in 2017 and 67 in 2016.  This represents an increase of 36% between 2017 and 2018, in contrast to the 7.5% increase between 2016 and 2017.

The Top 5 most active sectors for merger notifications to the CCPC in 2018 were Real Estate, Financial Services, Communications, Healthcare and the Motor Sector.

In terms of CCPC merger process trends in 2018, the statistics indicate that the CCPC is carrying out a higher number of lengthy reviews and requiring commitments in a higher number of cases:

  • The CCPC issued fourteen Requirements for Further Information (“RFI”) in 2018.  An RFI results in a far longer process for the merging parties as the statutory review period re-starts on ‘Working Day 1 (of 30)’ when an RFI response is submitted.  Of these RFI cases, five were ultimately cleared at Phase I, five remain under CCPC Phase I reviews four were moved to CCPC Phase II reviews.
  • Three CCPC merger notifications made in 2018 have proceeded to a Phase II investigation.  This represents an increase in the most lengthy type of CCPC merger review, noting that there were no Phase II investigations in 2017. Of these three Phase II cases, the CCPC ultimately cleared two in 2018 (Trinity Mirror/Northern & Shell and Enva/Rilta) and the other one remains under CCPC review in 2019 (Live Nation / Gaiety).
  • Five merger notifications (including two Phase II investigations) were cleared in Phase 2 conditional on commitments from the merging parties (four of the five cases involved behavioural rather than structural commitments).  This represents a continuation in the trend of greater reliance on commitments which was seen in 2016/17, whereby there were four conditional clearances in 2017 as compared to only two conditional clearances in 2016.
  • The average duration of a standard Phase I CCPC review process during 2018 was 24 working days (many reviews lasted close to the maximum statutory period of 30 working days but there are exceptional cases where the CCPC review was as short as 13 working days).

We expect that 2019 will see fewer CCPC notifications due to new higher jurisdictional thresholds which are in force since 1 January 2019 (see further here).  However it is interesting to note that CCPC is expecting an upsurge in its merger control activities as a result in Brexit, commenting on 4 January 2019 that “Brexit will lead to the notification of more complex mergers and we have been working internally to prepare for this”.