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Study Notes

Merger Policy in the UK and the European Union

A Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Corporate restructuring is a fact of life. There is a natural tendency for markets to consolidate over take through a process of horizontal and vertical integration.

The main issue for competition policy is whether a proposed merger or takeover between two businesses is thought to lead to a substantial lessening of competitive pressures in the market and risks leading to a level of market concentration when collusive behaviour might become a reality.

When companies combine via a merger, an acquisition or the creation of a joint venture, this generally has a positive impact on markets: firms usually become more efficient, competition intensifies and the final consumer will benefit from higher-quality goods at fairer prices.

However, mergers which create or strengthen a dominant market position can, after investigation, be prohibited in order to prevent ensuing abuses. Acquiring a dominant position by buying out competitors is in contravention of EU competition law. Companies are usually able to address the competition problems, normally by offering to divest (sell or off-load) part of their businesses. For example, in 2007, the UK Competition Commission decided that Sky would be forced to sell some of its 17.9% stake in ITV.

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