European and Swedish Antitrust News (April 22, 2021)

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The Swedish Competition Authority has approved the horizontal merger of Finnish Altia and Norwegian Arcus, both of which are major alcoholic beverage brand producers and distributors in the Nordics, after the companies committed to divest four famous brands. In other news, the EU Commission has fined three railway companies for a cartel, launched an investigation of possible anti-competitive conduct by Teva and has approved the Danfoss – Eaton Hydraulics merger subject to conditions, while the SCA has ended its investigation of insurance companies.

SCA approves Altia-Arcus merger subject to conditions. After the Swedish Competition Authority opened an in-depth investigation of the proposed merger of Finnish Altia and Norwegian Arcus, both of which are major alcoholic beverage brand producers and distributors in the Nordics, the companies submitted commitments to divest the brands “Skåne Akvavit”, “Hallands Fläder”, Dworek, and one of the two cognac brands “Grönstedts” or “Braastad”. The SCA concludes that the commitments address its concerns over horizontal overlaps. The merged entity will be named Anora Group.

EU Commission fines three railway companies for cartel. Three railway companies, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB), Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer belges / Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (SNCB), have participated in a customer allocation cartel for cross-border rail cargo transport on key rail corridors in the EU. The three companies admitted their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case. DB were fined €48.3M and SNCB were fined €0.3 M, while ÖBB received full immunity, avoiding a € 37M fine, as ÖBB reported the cartel under the Commission’s leniency notice.

EU Commission investigates possible anticompetitive conduct by Teva. Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva may have blocked or delayed the market entry of competitors to its drug Copaxone, widely used for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. The Commission will investigate if Teva has artificially extended the market exclusivity of Copaxone, after a patent expired in 2015, by strategically filing and withdrawing divisional patents, repeatedly delaying entry of its generic competitor who was obliged to file a new legal challenge each time. The Commission also has indications that Teva has pursued a communication campaign directed at healthcare institutions and professionals to create a false perception of health risks associated with approved competing generic drugs.

SCA ends investigation of insurance companies. The Swedish Competition Authority has since 2017 investigated potential anti-competitive information exchanges between insurance companies. After initially investigating 7 insurance companies, the investigation has focused on one procurement where numerous municipalities contracted a broker to perform a joint procurement of insurances for municipality owned utility companies, in which the broker and two insurance companies are believed to have agreed upon how to split the various contracts between the two insurance companies. However, the investigation has failed to prove that there’s been any direct or indirect information exchange between the two competing insurance companies.

EU Commission clears Danfoss – Eaton Hydraulics merger subject to conditions. Danish company Danfoss will acquire the Hydraulics business of Irish company Eaton, both of whom are leading global manufacturers of hydraulic components such as pumps, motors and valves. The Commission was concerned the transaction would lead to high combined market shares in specific product markets, but Danfoss has committed to divest Eaton’s production lines for Hydraulic steering units, Electrohydraulic steering valves and Orbital motors in order to remove the horizontal overlap of concern.

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