European and Swedish Antitrust News (August 10, 2020)

Photo: Nelso Silva

The EU Commission has approved the proposed merger of leading train providers Alstom and Bombardier Transportation, subject to commitments including divestment of three train platforms. In other news, the Commission has opened an in-depth investigation of Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit due to numerous vertical concerns, the Commission is asking for feedback on revised regional aid guidelines and the SCA provided an update on its ongoing market study of digital platforms.

EU Commission approves Alstom-Bombardier Transportation merger subject to conditions. The companies are both global leading providers of trains of various types and of signaling solutions, but Alstom has committed to divest Bombardier’s stake in a joint very-high-speed platform with Hitachi, one of Alstom’s mainline platforms and one of Bombardier’s mainline platforms. Furthermore, two production plants will be divested, and Alstom has made commitments to supply legacy signaling systems.

EU Commission opens phase-II-investigation of Google’s Fitbit acquisition. Fitbit provides wearable devices (smartwatches and other fitness trackers), but the Commission has numerous vertical concerns about the merger. Primarily, the merger may give Google additional data advantage in the personalization of ads on markets where Google is already strong or dominant. Furthermore, the Commission will examine how the entities’ joint databases and capabilities will affect the developing digital healthcare sector and if Google with its Android operating system may harm competition between providers of wearable devices.

SCA updates on its market study of digital platforms. The Swedish Competition Authority is studying the functioning of competition on digital platforms in Sweden. While finding that digital platforms have been of great benefit to consumers so far, the initial phase of the study identified that companies using platforms to distribute products are concerned about how the platform owners retain and use collected data, and that there are concerns about the vertical integration of platforms and how platforms leverage a position in one market to enter neighboring markets. The final report of the study is expected in December 2020.

EU Commission asks for feedback on regional aid guidelines. The Commission recently prolonged the current regional aid guidelines until the end of 2021 but is now asking for comments on new guidelines. The suggested revision includes better consistency with the General Block Exemption Regulation, removal of exclusion of some sectors (synthetic fibers, lignite, coal), updated regional aid maps valid for 2022-2027, and increased maximum aid intensities to support the European Green Deal and the Digital strategy.

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