European and Swedish Antitrust News (Jan 20, 2020)

Photographer: H Ellgaard

The dairy producers looking to acquire control of three Swedish hard cheese brands have had their case rejected by the Swedish Patent and Market Court, following the previous prohibition by the Swedish Competition Agency. In other news, new guidelines on State aid related to the Emission Trading System are on consultation, the Synthomer-Omnova merger is approved following a divesture, patients who don’t chose a healthcare provider are difficult to handle in Sweden, and the postal services sector will require policy changes to ensure that there is a viable operator.

Swedish Patent and Market Court Rejects Case on Prohibited Concentration in the Dairy Industry. Three very common Swedish hard cheese brands (Präst, Herrgård and Grevé) are owned by the company “Svensk Mjölk AB”, which in turn is owned by the industry association for dairy farmers and licenses the use of these brands. Back in April 2019, the Swedish Competition Authority prohibited a concentration in which three dairy producers jointly would acquire control of “Svensk Mjölk AB” and be able to restrict competitors’ use of these brands. The transaction was part of a long feud in which a fourth major dairy producer had challenged the licensing terms for the brands. The three companies submitted a case to the court, but the court has now rejected the case.

Public Consultation on Draft for EU Emission Trading System (ETS) State aid Guidelines. EU Member States can partly compensate industrial sectors for indirect emission costs from the EU ETS scheme in cases where there is a risk of ‘carbon leakage’, either because production is transferred to non-EU countries or because products are replaced by more carbon-intensive imports, thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Following the “European Green Deal” communicated by the commission last month which aim to achieve climate-neutrality in Europe by 2050, the Commission has now invited for comments during January 14 to March 10 on the draft for new ETS State aid guidelines to be applicable from 1 January 2021.

Difficult to Uphold Competition if Patients Don’t Chose Provider. The Swedish Competition Authority has posted its considerations on Swedish Government Inquiry SOU 2019:42 on how to achieve the objectives in the Swedish Health and Medical Services Act, including a review of the patient choice systems. The SCA insists that the region responsible for a patient mustn’t make a choice of provider, else it will be subject to the government procurement regulations. The SCA therefore oppose the suggested method for handling patients who haven’t chosen a provider, and the SCA furthermore oppose two other suggestions that will limit opportunities for patients to change their chosen provider.

EU Commission Approves Synthomer-Omnova Merger after Divesting VP-Latex Business. UK-based Synthomer is acquiring US-based Omnova, both of whom are major producers of polymers and other specialty chemicals, but their geographical and product markets are largely complementary. The EU Commission however noted that the two firms had a duopoly on the European market for vinyl pyridine latex, a chemical product used by tire manufacturers, and Synthomer will now divest its VP-Latex business before completing the acquisition.

New Policy Suggestions for a Sustainable Postal Services Sector. Copenhagen Economics will on January 21 present a study on postal services in the EU for the European Parliament’s TRAN committee. The sector has seen drastic changes to user needs with decreasing letter post volumes and increasing parcel volumes from e-commerce, some of which cross-border, while subject to EU and national regulations. The report concludes that to ensure that there is a viable postal operator, regulation must be in sync with market development and shift policy focus from promotion of competition to the sustainability of the sector, and the report recommends policies that consider environmental and social conditions and that create an international level playing field.

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