European and Swedish Antitrust News (February 12, 2021)

Photo: Ansu

The EU Commission has opened a formal investigation of Mondelēz for possibly imposing illegal trade restrictions on chocolate, biscuits and coffee products between EU member states. In other news, the EU Commission has approved the LSEG-Refinitiv merger subject to conditions, the SCA has sued Västerås municipality for a direct procurement, the SCA has dropped its investigation of Impecta as the company withdrew its vertical restraints, and the SCA has published an evaluation of public procurement statistics in Sweden.

EU Commission opens investigation of possible trade restrictions by Mondelēz. US-based company Mondelez International Inc. is, under numerous brands, one of the largest producers of chocolate, biscuits and coffee in the EU and the Commission is concerned that Mondelēz may have restricted parallel trade of its products between EU Member States through agreements and unilateral practices. A formal in-depth investigation has now been launched as a matter of priority.

EU Commission approves LSEG-Refinitiv merger subject to conditions. London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is acquiring Refinitiv, a major provider of financial markets data and infrastructure, which raised numerous vertical concerns as well as horizontal concerns as Refinitiv also operates the trading venue Tradeweb for trading of European Government Bonds. LSEG has committed to divest its own EGB trading venue ‘MTS’ to Euronext, removing the horizontal overlap, and has made several ten-year-commitments monitored by a trustee to ensure that competing trading venues are offered the same clearing services and competing data providers are offered the same access to data.

SCA sues Västerås municipality for illegal direct procurement. The Swedish Competition Authority is suing Västerås municipality for an alleged illegal direct procurement of IT services, demanding an administrative fine of 4.6 MSEK. Västerås didn’t finish a new procurement in time to replace a previous service agreement, and therefore bought services directly for 15 months. As this isn’t the first time Västerås has failed to procure services, the SCA has decided to sue Västerås.

Increasing number of tenders per procurement in Sweden. The SCA has published an evaluation of statistics of public procurement in Sweden and finds that the average number of suppliers submitting a tender has increased from 4.1 per procurement in 2017 to 4.5 in 2019, ending a previous trend of decreasing number of tenders. However, for 18 % of all procurements there were still only one supplier submitting a tender. 6.6 % of all procurements in 2019 were subject to a review procedure, continuing a trend of declining reviews, down from 8.1 % in 2014.

SCA ends investigation as Impecta revokes vertical restraints. The Swedish Competition Authority initiated an investigation as retailers reported that seed trade company Impecta in October had informed retailers that they wouldn’t be allowed to sell the company’s products online. However, as Impecta two months later revoked that decision, the SCA has dropped its investigation of if it was an illegal vertical restraint.

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