Breakingviews

Brussels O2 veto cements BT’s home advantage

May 11, 2016

The EU’s anti-trust tsar has rejected CK Hutchison’s 10.3 billion pound takeover of O2, because it says it would raise mobile prices. That leaves several UK players figuring out next steps. In an industry moving towards packages of mobile, landline, broadband and TV, the winner is the beefed-up BT.

Abandoned Pfizer deal leaves all sides tainted

April 6, 2016

The U.S. Treasury looks bad for changing the rules to kill the $160 bln merger with Allergan. Lawmakers’ inaction encouraged such tax-driven transactions. But Pfizer and CEO Ian Read bear the most responsibility for wasting time and resources pushing an overpriced, risky deal.

Li Ka-shing brings funding finesse to telco M&A

March 18, 2016

The tycoon may sell 20 pct of his UK mobile unit to outsiders. That could raise 1 bln pounds to help buy Telefonica’s O2, on top of the 3.1 bln pounds sovereign funds are already chipping in. That would let Li complete the 9 bln pound deal with no fresh investment.

Alphabet sinks further into antitrust quagmire

February 22, 2016

The European Commission may beef up its anti-competitive complaint against Google. U.S. authorities are probing the search giant, too. Proving abuses will be difficult, but the expanding scope means the company will have to expend more energy to pull itself out of the bog.

O2 deal may get hung up on UK telco concessions

December 9, 2015

Brussels’ trustbusters are assessing the market impact of Hutchison’s 10 bln stg bid for Telefonica’s UK arm. It would be odd to push the bidder to surrender spectrum: rivals have more. A demand for it to create a new operator looks sounder but would hurt the deal logic.

Late cycle M&A runs afoul of U.S. trustbusters

December 7, 2015

Enforcers stopped GE’s sale of its ovens business to Electrolux, put the lid on a canned tuna union and may yet erase Office Depot’s sale to Staples. Some health insurance mergers may be at risk, too. In a record year for acquisitions, it’s becoming hard to find clean ones.

Molson gets tasty chaser in giant beer deal

November 11, 2015

The Coors owner is paying SABMiller $12 bln for its 58 pct stake in their U.S. venture. By helping ease antitrust pressure on the UK-listed brewer’s $105 bln sale to AB InBev, Molson avoids a premium. Some $200 mln of annual cost savings, plus a sizeable tax perk, are pure gold.

Antitrust food fight messes up outlook for mergers

June 24, 2015

A U.S. court halted Sysco’s $3.5 bln US Foods purchase, saying the deal would probably harm national competition despite local rivals. A similar argument threatens Staples’ $6.3 bln bid for Office Depot. The bottom-line economics still look tasty, but legal precedent has soured.

Rob Cox: EU’s new trustbuster begins with a bang

By Rob Cox
April 21, 2015

Since becoming Brussels’ antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager has taken action against the twin monsters of the digital and energy worlds: Google and Gazprom. But her battles on the Eastern and Western fronts of market abuse may leave Europe’s M&A boom plenty of room to flourish.

EU’s competition sprawl as worrying as Google’s

April 15, 2015

Europe has accused the web giant of favoring its own shopping search results and broadened the case to include its Android mobile operating system. Investigations and appeals may take a decade. Brussels’ ambitious lack of focus is similar to what threatens ever-expanding Google.