MergerFest 2019: Is UK Merger Control in the Right Place?

This Cornerstone Research conference in London featured expert speakers from private practice and academia.

This London conference, hosted by Cornerstone Research, addressed topics dominating recent headlines in merger control.

MergerFest UK 2019

The first panel discussed the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA’s) recent prohibition of the anticipated merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda. Topics included:

  • Is the CMA’s choice of threshold for its GUPPI analysis unprecedented?
  • Is the national theory of harm more than an aggregation of local market overlaps?
  • How convincing is the CMA’s finding of coordinated effects in online-delivered groceries?
  • Does the CMA’s acceptance of £500m in efficiencies represent a watershed finding?

At the end of the first panel, Stuart McIntosh, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair, offered his reflections on the Sainsbury’s/Asda investigation, drawing on our panellists’ analyses of the CMA’s landmark decision and its implications for future cases.

The second panel addressed the competitive impact of nascent acquisitions, especially in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors. Speakers considered such questions as:

  • When does a large, successful firm acquiring a fledgling but high-value organisation raise competition concerns?
  • What evidence is there that ‘killer acquisitions’ are a real-world problem?
  • Can merger control expect success in forecasting the future when examining potential entry and innovation theories of harm?
  • When does economics suggest early-stage purchases will enhance or hamper innovation?