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A Change in Direction for Merger Control in Ireland: An Ex Ante/Ex Post Case Study Evaluation

Gorecki, Paul (2021): A Change in Direction for Merger Control in Ireland: An Ex Ante/Ex Post Case Study Evaluation.

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Abstract

Since 2017 Ireland’s competition agency, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), has cleared two merger to monopoly transactions, albeit both subject to the divestment of selected assets to an entrant. One of these transactions was Kantar Media’s 2017 acquisition of Newsaccess. Prior to 2017 the CCPC had prohibited mergers to monopoly. Does this apparent relaxation mark a sea change in CCPC merger policy? Taking the Kantar Media/Newsaccess merger as a case study, the paper explores this question. The paper finds that there has been a relaxation of merger enforcement by the CCPC. On an ex ante basis the Kantar Media/Newsaccess merger should have been prohibited or the remedy substantially strengthened. However, ex post, due to business difficulties of the merger entity consequent upon a major pre-merger restructuring, the market has self-corrected through successful entry facilitated in large part by these business difficulties. Such rapid self-correction in restoring competition is very much the exception rather than the rule. If it were otherwise there would be no need for merger control.

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