Platypus: UK Merger Control Analysis

Like the duck-billed egg-laying mammal that is the platypus (ornithorhynchus paradoxus), the UK’s unique merger control regime confounds neat classification. A voluntary regime for sellers – that isn’t voluntary for buyers – with a proverbial “light-touch” approach… that can sometimes be the world’s most lethal. As regimen paradoxum it is the rare monotreme among the world’s mammals of merger control. A successful encounter in the wild requires careful planning and a healthy respect for its habitat and way of life.

Platypus is our new digital platform for UK merger control analysis with core products of statistics, updated fortnightly/monthly, and blog post commentary.

  • The stats modules on launch focus on Phase 2 outcomes since 1 January 2018, Phase 1 outcomes since 1 January 2019, and, on the procedural side, a league table of fines imposed in merger cases since the first in mid-2018.
  • On analytical content and commentary, Platypus’ intended regular guest areas are deal mortality, Brexit and killer acquisitions.  We will also introduce special guest hot topics as they arise.

Our first Platypus post introduces the UK regime and the monotreme analogy in more detail.

UK Merger Control Cases and Statistics

deal mortality meter

Phase 2 Outcomes

Period 1 Jan 2019 to 30 Sept 2020

Deal mortality and remedies endgames in UK Phase 2 (set of 23 cases – definitive outcomes only): 

  • 70% result in deal mortality (comprising prohibition, unwind, and deal abandonment upon referral or during Phase 2); this compares to 30% for the period from CMA formation to end 2017;
  • 78% result in "intervention" in the sense of deal mortality or imposition of remedies, with 22% unconditionally cleared; this 78:22 split compares to a 56:44 split for the period from CMA formation to end 2017, which was consistent with the perceived Competition Commission (CC) long-run rate of approximately 50:50 from the introduction of the Enterprise Act to CMA formation (from mid-2003 to end March 2014).

Completed deals and non-notified deals going to Phase 2 (set of 27 cases – including pending cases):

  • 44% of cases sent to Phase 2 are completed deals, i.e. subject to hold-separate orders (IEOs) etc. and risk of substantive intervention (3 deal unwinds in the period);
  • 48% of cases were own-initiative cases “called in” by CMA Mergers Intelligence rather than being proactively notified.

Read our blog post on deal mortality here. Statistical definitions and more detail on our core stats modules can be found here:


On the subject of deal mortality, see also Break Fee at Tiffany’s? – on our Linking Competition global competition blog site.

Platypus posts

Platypus in water

It’s Monotrematic: Introducing Platypus and the UK’s merger control regime

The UK’s merger control regime has remarkable similarities to a platypus: it confounds neat classifications. The answer to basic questions about the UK’s regime is both yes and no - is it voluntary? Is there an objective qualifying threshold? Other aspects of the UK’s unique regime allow the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to go amphibian and reach deals which are off-limits to other authorities.

Read our first Platypus post

eu and uk flags on stone

“Separate and sovereign” – the risk of divergent outcomes in merger control post-Brexit

Companies involved in global deals are finding that increased levels of CMA intervention coupled with the imminent end of the European One Stop Shop for the UK component of transactions, mean that they need to factor into their deals the possibility of a CMA review. This blog post considers the implications of Brexit on merger control, in particular the risk of divergent outcomes for deals involving parallel reviews by the CMA and European Commission.



Read our first Brexit-related post

cacti in UK and EU mugs respectively

The future is now: Brexit and the end of 30 years of the EUMR One Stop Shop for merger control in the UK

We have written previously about the broad jurisdictional scope of UK merger control and the growing trend of interventionism by the CMA. And as the Brexit transition period comes to an end, many mergers will become subject to parallel review by the European Commission and the CMA. This is not only a concern for 2021 and beyond: for deals signing now and in the coming months, the safe harbour is already receding into the distance.

Read our blog post

Blocked door

The Phase 2 deal mortality meter: there’s more to death than prohibition

Platypus was launched as a weekly internal UK merger control blog in the Linklaters London competition team. Spotting a gap in the market, it introduced the Phase 2 deal mortality rate as our most useful measure for tracking CMA merger control outcomes.


Read our first deal mortality post

roller blades

Let’s call the whole thing off: the CMA’s transatlantic hunt for killer acquisitions

Astaire and Rogers make dancing on roller skates look easy. The same could be said of the “voluntary” UK regime on the merger control map. Yet there is now a CMA pattern of opposing US-centric or foreign deals with a slender UK nexus in dynamic global markets - especially where the CMA sees itself as hunting down a “killer acquisition”. For M&A partners, roller-dancing outdoors is hard enough, but the trick is to pull it off also in extreme UK weather conditions. Fred and Ginger sing about British vs. American English… so how to avoid the deciding word being a British pronunciation to call the whole thing off? It starts with good skating and accent coaches and careful planning.

Read our earlier killer acquisitions post

bond books

No Time to Die: British Agent Disrupts Plans For World Domination

Dateline: London Docklands, present day

The Canary Wharf headquarters of the CMA lie some six miles downriver from Vauxhall Cross, the Thameside HQ described by no less than its occupant, MI6, as an ‘iconic building … easily identifiable from … several James Bond films’.

The CMA’s premises on the upper floors of the Cabot Square tower may be non-iconic.  But they are high-spec and optimal for horizon-scanning, housing a unit – currently Teams-based – whose staff fulfil the agency’s ‘duty to track merger activity to determine whether any unnotified merger’ poses a competitive threat.  

Our first Bond instalment streaming soon

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