Breakingviews

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.

Obama’s not the trustbuster he thought he would be

July 24, 2012

The president promised an antitrust crackdown. A new study finds, however, that despite high-profile cases like AT&T, he’s no bolder than his predecessor, who Obama called wimpy on the subject. While tough talk can be a deterrent, the law trumps politics in deal enforcement.

T-Mobile sale not the only telco worry for antitrust watchdogs

March 28, 2011

America's antitrust and telecoms watchdogs have their hands full with AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile. So they may overlook what's at stake in a seemingly esoteric spat between Google geeks and their Facebook cohorts.

Google won’t evade rivals as easily as feds

January 4, 2013

An extensive U.S. antitrust probe into the dominant search engine ended with a company promise to behave. The government’s case always looked shaky. If it couldn’t nail Microsoft, Google was a pipe dream. Just as well. For now, it’s still a problem for the market to sort out.