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16 Apr 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on merger control


We are pleased to share with you our briefing on the likely impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both EU and UK merger control. 

Key points to take away from this briefing:

  • Despite the extraordinary circumstances posed by COVID-19 to working life and business continuity, companies should not think that deals will be waved through by the regulators - even if they are acquiring failing businesses… Nor should companies be tempted to take their chances and not notify deals to the relevant competition authorities.

  • Although both the Commission and the CMA have signalled that companies should expect significant delays to merger reviews, the usual merger control rules continue to apply. There has been no actual relaxation of the merger control rules, and in fact, regulators may take a more cautious approach in these volatile times!

  • Importantly, we expect a ramp up in M&A activity in the coming months as a result of buy-outs of distressed assets, restructurings and/or other emergency transactions – when fast merger control approvals will be key. Therefore, it is important for companies to consider how best to navigate any merger control risks to their deals to secure a swift clearance.

  • Our briefing shares top tips on how to work with the Commission / CMA to secure merger control approvals as efficiently as possible – including a reminder that the authorities may well apply a more relaxed approach to the “failing firm” defence to approve transactions that would otherwise raise competition concerns.

  • Finally, bear in mind that deals may be subject to other regulatory approvals, including foreign investment screening. Following COVID-19, there has been an increased focus to protect vulnerable strategic assets and critical national infrastructure from being taken over by foreign investors.
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