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

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.

Market has message for tobacco M&A trustbusters

July 15, 2014

Reynolds and Lorillard have gained over $10 bln of market value since talk of their $55 bln merger surfaced. That can’t be justified by promised savings or the market rally. Anticipation of a surge in pricing power through the creation of a duopoly explains investor enthusiasm.

Comcast’s $45 bln deal warrants some utility logic

April 11, 2014

These days it isn’t a big stretch to liken pipes carrying internet access to those carrying water or electricity. When utilities merge, though, regulators want consumers to share the spoils. If approached that way, Comcast’s Time Warner Cable takeover might raise fewer hackles.

Blocking a deal isn’t always best antitrust answer

September 30, 2011

Blocking mergers is the bluntest tool in an antitrust watchdog’s armory. But as the case of Live Nation Entertainment shows, aborting deals isn’t always necessary to foster competition - extracting concessions can work instead.

Google’s antitrust problem is all about privacy

June 7, 2012

They seem like separate issues, but the internet search giant’s market power is largely fueled by its access to personal data. Limiting that could give competition a useful jolt. U.S. and European regulators need to keep that in mind as they move closer to legal action.