Antitrust Matters — July 2014: competition law news from Africa, Europe and Americas

By Bertold Bär-Bouyssière

We live again in interesting times. Over the last few weeks, most of us feverishly asked ourselves which soccer team will win the World Cup. During the same period, observers following international business developments around the world were placing their bets on whether or not the French government would allow General Electric to acquire French industrial giant Alstom. Difficult to say which of the two questions was more difficult to answer, but now we know the answer to both. Germany versus Argentina 1:0; Competition versus Industrial Policy 0:1.

From a competition law and policy point of view, the proposed link-up between the US and French firms should not raise any conceptually novel issues. Competition law and policy are no longer novel disciplines. The existing toolbox is sufficient to deal with whatever issue there may be to preserve competition. US law now has 125 years of experience in dealing with mergers; the EU roughly 25, if you do not take into account older merger control rules at member state level. Since the Sherman Act was adopted in 1890, and soon followed by the Clayton Act in 1914, much debate has dealt with the question of whether antitrust law and policy should tolerate business combinations and to what extent. Different economic policy schools have emerged over the decades, focusing on the quest for allocative efficiency, or on maintaining a sufficiently competitive market structure. However, under all historically relevant antitrust doctrines that have ever been applied in the US or Europe, the GE-Alstom deal could be properly analysed…

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