Regulatory Roundup

Waterstone’s , Ottakar’s wait on OFT merger ruling

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is expected to deliver its much-anticipated decision regarding the pending merger of bookstore chains Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s. 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 earlier this month. 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. PA chief Ronnie Williams says that members of the association were concerned the merger would be the “end of mainstream competition in the specialist high street bookselling market”. Simmons & Simmons is advising HMV Group, while Macfarlanes is acting for Ottakar’s. At the time of going to press, the OFT had not yet delivered its finding.

CC chipper as Terra Firma forced to buy East Surrey Holdings

Clifford Chance had good reason to celebrate after the Takeover Panel’s decision to throw out Terra Firma’s application to lapse its £453m offer for water and utilities company East Surrey Holdings. The ruling effectively forced Terra Firma to follow through with the acquisition of East Surrey’s principal assets, East Surrey Water and Phoenix Natural Gas.

Lovells the loser as client ditches Rentokil purchase

Lovells missed out on what could have been a lucrative advisory role when Sir Gerry Robinson walked away from bidding for Rentokil (17 October). Robinson decided not to bid for Rentokil after the Takeover Panel issued a ‘put-up or shut-up’ deadline to the entrepreneur. Lovells was advising Robinson, while Denton Wilde Sapte and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised regular client Rentokil.