Regulatory roundup

OFT refers Ottakar’s takeover to Competition Commission

After a string of delays, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has delivered its decision on HMV Group’s pending acquisition of Ottakar’s. Clifford Chance had a small win after the OFT referred the merger of bookstore chains Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s to the Competition Commission last week. HMV Group, which owns rival bookstore chain Waterstone’s, made a formal £96.4m takeover bid for Ottakar’s in September.

The bid distressed the Publishers Association (PA), which instructed Clifford Chance to call for the merger to be referred to the Competition Commission. Clifford Chance lawyers, led by European competition and regulatory partner Oliver Bretz, outlined a number of market share issues to the OFT in November.

The PA argued that the specialist market is separate from supermarket retailing, internet sales or high street bestseller stores. It claims a post-merger Waterstone’s would have 55 per cent of the specialist market. The Competition Commission will investigate the case and is expected to report back by 22 May 2006. Simmons & Simmons (Giles Dennison, Alan Karter and Damon Le Maitre-George) is advising HMV Group, while Macfarlanes (Simon Martin) is acting for Ottakar’s.

Eversheds scoops SFO deputy director

Eversheds has scored a coup for its fraud team with the hire of Serious Fraud Office (SFO) deputy director Peter Kiernan as a partner (The Lawyer, 14 November). Kiernan, who joins in January, will work alongside fraud and financial crime head Gerallt Owen. He will work out of both the London and Cardiff offices. While at the SFO, Kiernan worked on cases such as Barings and advised the Butterfield Inquiry into HM Customs and Excise (now HM Revenue & Customs) investigations and prosecutions. Kiernan’s hire follows a double raid on DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary’s regulatory team in December 2004 and September 2005, bringing in partners Steven Francis and Kevin McLoughlin.