Concurrences: Interview with Commissioner Bonakele

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Antitrust in Developing Countries: Competition Policy in a Politicised World

Our friends at Concurrences Review are hosting the fourth edition of the joint conference co-organized by Concurrences & New York University School of Law, in New York City on October 27, 2017.

Tickets and more information can be obtained here.

Below is the interview of Tembinkosi Bonakele (Commissioner, South African Competition Commission) by Ioannis Lianos (Professor, University College London). The two will participate in the conference panel “Impact of the New Nationalism on Competition and Economic Development in Developing Countries.”

Interview between Prof. Lianos and Commissioner Bonakele

© Concurrences

Competition authorities are increasingly interested in assessing the effects of mergers or other conduct on innovation. How is this concern over the promotion of innovation affecting the substance of competition law enforcement, and in particular the extraterritorial application of competition law, as innovation is often taking place in the context of global value chains? How should one resolve conflicts over competing visions over the impact of competition on innovation, as it seems to be, for instance, the case between the EU and the US, and possibly BRICS countries?

One of the aims of competition law is to encourage innovation. Firms and individuals are incentivised to innovate due to the protection conferred on their innovations by intellectual property laws (IP). Therefore, at least theoretically, competition and IP laws ought to be complementary. However, the conflicts between competition law and innovation/IP laws are increasingly coming into sharp focus within the context of global value chains. One such example is the recent global mega-mergers in the seeds and agro-chemicals sectors. These mergers illustrate how multinationals can leverage their significant innovation and research resources by extending their IP protections through ‘ever-greening’ of patents, reciprocal IP cross licensing arrangements with close rivals, joint ventures and collaborative research and development. This level of collaboration suggests that the seed/agro-processing markets are likely more concentrated than is currently understood. From a policy perspective, competition authorities in both the EU and US seem supportive of this level of concentration based on the theory that such concentration increases innovation, notwithstanding their (unintended) global unilateral effects to which developing countries are especially vulnerable, given the centrality of agriculture for the sustenance of communities in their economies. The vulnerability of developing countries is further exacerbated by the fact that they are trying to regulate multinationals which have access to resources that dwarf the GDPs of many developing countries, and are able to lobby hard politically, against any interventions aimed at their activities.

Against this backdrop, the way forward for BRICS and other developing countries is to continue efforts to establish their own research platforms to enable the true impacts of the trade-off between innovation and competition law to be better understood from a developing country perspective. Furthermore, there is scope for greater global co-ordination amongst competition law agencies to ensure that global transactions are investigated and remedied in a co-ordinated manner.

Broader public policy concerns, than consumer welfare narrowly defined, are increasingly taken into account by various competition law systems around the world, in both developing and developed countries when assessing mergers and, in some instances, anticompetitive conduct. There is also increasing demand for a broader canvas of principles and values in order to assess business conduct, as this is demonstrated by the development of the concepts of “social” and “green” capitalism. Should competition law authorities explore more systematically this trend and eventually move to a public interest standard in assessing anticompetitive conduct, at least in some economic sectors (for instance involving primary goods, such as food, shelter, or with considerable environmental impact etc.)? What would be the implications for the global governance of antitrust?

Many countries already apply tests beyond the typical competition law tests in merger assessments, but they do not declare those tests in an open and transparent way. In contrast, South Africa’s merger regulation explicitly includes a public interest test and guidelines have been issued setting out how the test will be applied during merger assessment.

Should public interest cover some old and emerging social issues such as green issues or the environmental impact on food security, shelter and so on? I think there is scope for these to be part of an assessment of merger transactions, but their location need not necessarily be with a competition agency and they can be properly assessed through a different regulatory agency in a transparent manner. Countries should be allowed to structure their agencies the way they deem fit.

Within South Africa’s context, in order to address historical inequalities and economic and political imbalances, competition legislation specifically provides for both competition law and public interest standards in the merger assessment process. It bears specific mention that the courts have recently confirmed that both the competition law and public interest tests are of equal prominence in any merger determination process. In a developmental context, economic exclusion exacerbates inequality, poverty and unemployment and competition policy in conjunction with industrial policy (introduced through public interest) can break down barriers to entry and unleash innovation and new entry, which are pivotal to the unleashing of economic growth and development.

Although public interest considerations in merger assessment would appear, largely, the preserve of developing countries, developed countries and most notably, the European Union, seem to be re-considering their stance towards public interest considerations in merger assessment. Moreover, the impact of globalisation appears to be giving rise to a new wave of ‘new nationalism’ in developed countries (and the United States is no exception). This has ushered in more inward looking perspectives to international trade and ironically, may give rise to the use of public interest considerations in ‘tit for tat’ exchanges in transactions taking place within an increasingly geopolitical context. Thus, the implications for the global governance of anti-trust may be convergence.

In recent years the competition authorities of BRICS countries and other large emergent economies have been increasingly active in competition law enforcement, adjudicating high profile cases of global importance. The experience gained may be a source of inspiration for competition authorities in other emergent and developing countries, and could also be an important source of learning and wisdom for the competition authorities in developed countries. Do you consider that BRICS and other larger emergent competition authorities should strive to ensure global convergence with the EU and/or US models of competition law, as this is put forward by some, or should they opt for different models, experimentation being an important source of collective learning for both developing and developed countries? Should convergence, or experimentation, be the main/driving principle for the global governance of competition law? 

In the developed world, competition law is applied within a context in which it is presumed that markets are naturally competitive, self-correcting and don’t require policy interventions to address failures. However, that presumption cannot hold true in a developing country context where markets are undeveloped, highly concentrated, non-inclusive and unemployment and inequality are high. In this ‘developmental context’ competition law is applied within a context in which it is presumed that firms with market power exploit it. Therefore, in developmental context, competition law more than just efficiency, but human and socio-economic development as well.

Rather than seeking convergence with developed country perspectives on competition law, developing countries need to play a more prominent role in understanding how competition law policy can be used to address poverty, inequality and unemployment. This will require developing countries through the auspices of representative regional platforms such as BRICS, to enhance co-operation, share experiences and develop legal and competition law expertise from a developmental perspective.

Thus, it is important to appreciate that approaches to competition law in the developed and developing worlds are diverse and that divergence should be tolerated and informed by context. This does not take away the need for global co-operation and sharing best practices. There are also instances where harmonisation may be desirable, like in regions with or striving for common markets.

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Book release exclusive: “Class Action Litigation in South Africa”

As foreshadowed over the past 4 years, since the inception of this blog, the topic of class action litigation (aka collective action) has gained momentum in Africa’s southern-most jurisdiction.

For our readers’ consideration, we invite you to purchase our editor John Oxenham‘s new authoritative (and first of its kind) book, entitled “Class Action Litigation in South Africa”.  If interested, please use the form below or e-mail us (editor@africanantitrust.com) for ordering information from JUTA Law publishers.

If you are in Johannesburg, S.A., on Wednesday, 2 August 2017, we would also be delighted if you could attend the book launch event — please be sure to R.S.V.P. to bdev@primerio.international if you plan to do so, however, as it is a private guest-list event only and requires your name for access to the venue.

We are most excited about the volume, which is the first of its kind and deals with a novel area of the law.  It contains chapters written by current and former firm members, including Andreas Stargard, Njeri Mugure, and of course the editor, John Oxenham.

New Frontiers of Antitrust – Paris conference

Concurrences Review will hold the 8th edition of its annual conference “New Frontiers of Antitrust” on Monday 26 June, from 8:30am to 7:00pm, at the Maison du Barreau, Rue de Harlay, Paris, France.

Marc van der Woude, Judge, Vice-President, General Court of the European Union, Luxembourg, will deliver the opening keynote speech.

AAT readers can use the following promotional code to sign up: NFA2017PartnersBlogs at the following site: https://newfrontiersofantitrust2017.eventbrite.fr


 Speakers include:

– Eric Barbier de La Serre, Partner, Jones Day

– Cristina Caffarra, Vice President, Head of European Competition Practice

– Andrea Coscelli, Acting Chief Executive, Competition & Markets Authority

– Isabelle de Silva, Chairperson, Autorité de la concurrence

– Kaarli Eichhorn, Global Executive Counsel – Competition Law & Policy, General Electric

– Carles Esteva Mosso, Deputy Director-General for mergers, DG COMP

– Justus Haucap, Director, Institute for Competition Economics

– Mathew Heim, Vice President and Counsel, Qualcomm

– Laurence Idot, Professor, University Paris II Panthéon-Assas

– Gert-Jan Koopman, Deputy Director-General State aid, DG COMP

– Frédéric Jenny, Chairman, OECD Competition Committee

– Cecilio Madero, Deputy Director-General Antitrust, DG COMP

–  Franck Maier-Rigaud, Professor, IÉSEG School of Management, Paris | Head of Competition Economics Europe, NERA,

– Robert McLeod, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, MLex

– Damien Neven, Senior Consultant, Compass Lexecon

– Mélanie Thill-Tayara, Partner, Dechert

– Wouter Wils, Hearing Officer, European Commission, Visiting Professor, King’s College London

The conference will focus on 4 topics:

– Competition authorities: Towards more independence and prioritisation?
– Mergers and innovation: Do mergers foster innovation?
– State aid and tax ruling: Is there really a competition issue?
– Exploring the politics of competition regulation: How political is competition law?

 

Cameroon: Opportunities & Challenges

This past Saturday, 11 March 2017, the Cameroonian Embassy in Paris, France, hosted a conference entitled “Cameroun, Destination d’Opportunités: Potentiel et défis” in conjunction with the Association of Cameroonian Attorneys in France.  The full programme is made available to AAT readers here.

1425573796In its afternoon panel on investment in Cameroons, Primerio Ltd. legal counsel, Dr. Patricia Kipiani spoke at length about the country’s high-growth sectors.  Her co-panellists included the Paris bar’s Lynda Amadagana as moderator, and William Nkontchou (ECP Director) and Hilaire Dongmo (Investment Principal at Actis).

Antitrust Writing Awards 2017

The 2017 Concurrences Antitrust Writing Awards received nominations for more than 600 papers. The Awards Editorial Committee has selected:

  • 66 academic articles
  • 91 business articles
  • 21 soft laws

Readers can vote online until February 1 for their favorite papers on the Awards website.

Free access to all these articles is temporarily being provided on the Awards website.

Results will be announced by former FTC Commissioner and renowned antitrust scholar Bill Kovacic and the Board members at the Gala Dinner on March 28, in Washington, D.C., the night before the ABA Spring Meeting.

Tickets for the Gala Dinner are available here.

Competition and Globalization in Developing Economies

Our Partner, Concurrences Review, has partnered with NYU Law, is hosting an à propos antitrust conference on Competition and Globalization in Developing Economies in New York

Topics & Panels:

  • Globalization and the Rise of Regionalism: TPP, ASEAN, COMESA, MINT and Coherence in the World

  • Pricing and Development Issues: Exploitation and Collusion

  • Mergers: Anatomy of a Clearance in Younger Jurisdictions

  • Innovation and Development: Licensing and Antitrust/IP Rules and Guidelines

  • Enforcers’ Roundtable: What’s under the Radar?

Speakers include:Charbit.jpeg

ENFORCERS

  • Tembinkosi Bonakele | Commissioner, South Africa Competition Commission, Pretoria

  • Dennis Davis | President, South African Competition Appeal Court, Cape Town

  • Jonathan Fried | Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada, WTO, Geneva

  • Frédéric Jenny | Chairman, OECD Competition Committee, Paris

  • William Kovacic | Non-Executive Director, Competition and Markets Authority, London

  • George Lipimile | Director, COMESA Competition Commission, Lusaka

  • Alejandro Sabido | Commissioner COFECE, Mexico City

  • Randolph W. Tritell | Director, Office of International Affairs, US FTC, Washington, DC

ACADEMIA

  • Harry First | Professor, NYU School of Law

  • Eleanor Fox | Professor, NYU School of Law

  • Daniel Rubinfeld | Professor, NYU School of Law

IN-HOUSE COUNSEL

  • Alvaro Ramos | Head Global Antitrust, Qualcomm, San Diego
  • Sabine Chalmers | Chief Legal & Corporate Affairs Officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, New York

  • Dina Kallay | Director, Intellectual Property & Competition, Ericsson, Washington, DC

  • Christopher Meyers | Associate General Counsel, Microsoft, Remond

This event will take place on Friday, October 28, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM at New York University School of Law.

You can see the full agenda and register online here.

Kipiani and Tchapga: advancing competition law & economics in Cameroon

Competition Law conference provides most in-depth look at the state of Cameroonian antitrust law

Event organised by Dr. Patricia Kipiani and Prof. Tchapga of Primerio & CEMAC, the Cameroon school of business and its competition law section

What follows is an article that appeared in French in the Le Droit journal, written by Stéphane Ngoh, reprinted here with permission.  An English translation is below.  An interview with Dr. Kipiani related to the conference can be found here.  In it, she discusses the planned creation of a “Competition Observatory” for the country.

Le cabinet Primerio International a organisé un séminaire de sensibilisation aux enjeux du droit et de la politique de la concurrence au Cameroun et dans l’espace de la CEMAC. L’évènement lancé par le ministre du Commerce, M. Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana s’est déroulé le 7 juillet 2016 au siège du GICAM à Douala.

Présenter la concurrence comme « un bien commun » à la collectivité et « renforcer la pédagogie de la concurrence dans ses dimensions juridiques et politiques» tels peuvent être les maitres mots du premier « rendez-vous de la concurrence» au Cameroun et en CEMAC impulsé par le cabinet d’expertise Primerio International et placé sous le thème «Du droit et de la politique de la concurrence au Cameroun et dans l’espace CEMAC ».  Comme pour en souligner toute l’importance, le ministre du Commerce du Cameroun, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, a fait le déplacement de la capitale économique dans l’optique d’en présider le lancement officiel. Le Docteur en droit et avocate au barreau de Bruxelles, Mme Patricia Kipiani, qui représentait le cabinet Primerio International pour l’occasion a expliqué combien cette première édition des « rendez-vous de la concurrence », se voulait sérieuse. Toute chose ayant justifié l’association aussi bien des universitaires de tous bords, du groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (Gicam) que des autorités publiques camerounaises. Les Chercheurs de l’Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne en France et les spécialistes du droit de la concurrence, le Professeur des universités Martine Behar-Touchais et l’enseignant-chercheur Laurent Vidal ont fait le déplacement du Gicam.

1425573796Le ministre du Commerce, qui intervient comme l’autorité publique de tutelle du secteur de la concurrence, a tenu à préciser que les rendez-vous de la concurrence ne pouvaient mieux tomber dans un contexte communautaire et camerounais situé à « la veille de l’entrée en vigueur des Accords de partenariat économique « APE », entre les pays ACP et l’UE dont le Cameroun est partie », ces accords qui impliquent une ouverture de l’économie imposent donc qu’un certain accent soit mis sur le droit et la politique de la concurrence. Au demeurant, le représentant de l’Etat du Cameroun à ce rendez-vous a tenu à réaffirmer la place reservée jusqu’ici à la concurrence, « notre conviction, a –t-il expliqué, est que le commerce a besoin d’un environnement sain et c’est la raison pour laquelle un arsenal des textes législatives ou règlementaires existe au Cameroun et cela témoigne de la volonté de l’état de réguler le secteur ». A l’appui de son affirmation, M. Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana a soutenu que la volonté et la détermination du Cameroun à faire du droit de la concurrence un enjeu de poids, se traduit depuis des années. Pour s’en féliciter, il souligne que les premières velléités d’encadrement de la concurrence remontent aux années1990 et qu’autant les lois ont créé la Commission nationale de la concurrence (Cnc) autant des décrets  en ont fixés les contours organisationnels et structurels. Le président de ladite Commission Léopold Boumsong, qui était dans la suite du Mincommerce, a été appelé à présenter les aspects nationaux de la concurrence et précisément le rôle de la Commission nationale de la concurrence. Ce rôle, comme l’a martelé le ministre, doit s’attacher à « poursuivre et sanctionner les pratiques anticoncurrentielles, en s’appuyant sur des textes datant et nouveau à l’instar de la loi cadre protection sur la consommation, de la nouvelle loi portant organisation des activités commerciales ainsi que la loi sur commerce extérieur ».

TROIS GRANDES PRATIQUES ANTICONCURRENTIELLES

cameroonLe président de la Cnc a précisé à l’égard des chefs d’entreprises qui emplissaient la salle du Gicam qu’il existe sommairement 3 types de pratiques qui ont « pour effet d’empêcher, de fausser ou de restreindre de manière sensible, l’exercice de la concurrence au niveau du marché intérieur » au sens de la loi n°98/013 du 14 juillet 1998 relative à la concurrence. Il s’agit des abus d’une entreprise ou d’un groupe d’entreprises en position dominante sur le marché, des fusions et acquisitions d’entreprises et aussi des accords anticoncurrentiels. L’un dans l’autre, il est apparu que les pratiques anticoncurrentielles au Cameroun sont constatées par procès-verbal dressé par les membres de la Commission suite aux enquêtes consécutives à une plainte d’une personne physique ou morale ou à celles initiées par eux-mêmes.

Par la suite, les aspects multilatéraux de la concurrence ont été évoqués au travers de la présentation du rôle de la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le Commerce et le Développement (CNUCED) en matière l’accompagnement des politiques de concurrence. L’économiste de la CNUCED, Yves Kenfack a découvert le code CNUCED de la concurrence dont il a salué la pertinence tout en regrettant que celui-ci ne soit pas contraignant pour les Etats signataires.

Un autre moment des échanges a porté sur les aspects croisés entre le point de vue de l’économiste et celui du juriste quant à la concurrence. C’est M. Flavien Tchapga, économiste, consultant lui aussi à Primerio International et professeur associé à l’Université Senghor d’Alexandrie, qui s’y est attelé face à l’auditoire de la salle des conférences du Gicam. L’intervention de ce dernier peut se ramener à une suggestion forte faisant suite à l’interrogation suivante : « peut-on réussir la sensibilisation sur la concurrence si l’on ne tient pas compte des spécificités de l’environnement local ? ». Réponse, en effet, dans un contexte où 9 entreprises sur 10 sont individuelles, il faut se méfier des formules des juristes qui sont souvent larges et complexifiées pour les économistes plus proches du terrain.

Au cours du rendez-vous de la concurrence, une table-ronde a été ouverte pour asseoir la dimension didactique de la rencontre. Les débats et les questions étaient placés sous la houlette de M. Martin Abega, administrateur de sociétés, ancien membre de la Commission nationale de la concurrence et Consul honoraire du Royaume des Pays-Bas au Cameroun.

En dernière analyse, les expériences pratiques de règlementations et de politiques de la concurrence en Europe et au Cameroun ont clairement été croisées par le biais de Martine Behar-Touchais et Laurent Vidal d’une part et de Me Abdoul Bagui d’autre part. Etant entendu qu’au Cameroun, la régulation est émiettée par secteur d’activités.

Ce sont concrètement toutes les difficultés liées au libre exercice de la concurrence qui ont été passées au crible. La contrebande, la persistance des monopoles dans certains domaines ou encore la contrefaçon relèvent de ces écueils épluchés par les soins des experts internationaux et locaux à l’instar des représentants du CNUCED, de CEMAC, de l’OHADA et surtout des entreprises camerounaises. Le Dr. Patricia Kipiani a expliqué qu’il était important que « les réflexions et les échanges reviennent sur les difficultés auxquelles se heurtent les entreprises, sur les difficultés liées à la concurrence déloyale, à leur impact sur le secteur informel et autres activités informelles des entreprises formelles. Et aussi qu’ un accent soit mis sur la réglementation et sur les politiques économiques susceptibles de promouvoir notre espace économique ».

Stéphane Ngoh


For our English readers, below is a Google Translate version in English of the article:

The international  firm Primerio organized an awareness seminar on issues of law and competition policy in Cameroon and in the CEMAC zone. The event launched by the Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana Mr. took place July 7, 2016 at the headquarters of GICAM in Douala.

Introduce competition as a “common good” to the community and “strengthen the teaching of competition in its legal and political dimensions” — such are the watchwords of the first “meeting competition” in Cameroon and driven CEMAC by the consultancy firm Primerio International and under the theme “from the law and competition policy in Cameroon and in the CEMAC.” As if to emphasize the importance, the trade minister of Cameroon, Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga, made the trip from the economic capital with a view to chair the official launch. The Doctor of Law and lawyer at the Brussels Bar, Patricia Kipiani, who represented the firm Primerio International for the occasion explained how this first edition of “appointments of competition”, was meant seriously. Anything that justified the association both academics of all stripes, the inter-group employers of Cameroon (Gicam) that the Cameroonian public authorities. The researchers from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in France and specialists from the competition law, the University Professor Martine Behar-Touchais and Laurent Vidal teacher-researcher made the trip from Gicam.

Minister of Commerce, which acts as a public authority supervising the sector to competition, has insisted that the appointment of the competition could not get better in a community and Cameroonian context located “on the eve of the entry into force of the economic partnership agreements ‘EPAs’, between the ACP countries and the EU which Cameroon is a party “, these agreements which involve opening up the economy therefore require that a certain emphasis on law and the competition policy. Moreover, the representative of the State of Cameroon to this appointment held to reaffirm the place reserved far in the competition, “our conviction has -t he explained, is that the trade needs a healthy environment and that is why an arsenal of legislative and regulatory texts exist in Cameroon and it demonstrates the willingness of the state to regulate the sector. “ In support of its contention, Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga argued that the will and determination of Cameroon to the competition law of a weight issue, resulting in years. To be welcomed, he stressed that the first framework for competition ambitions date back to the 1990’s and that so many laws created the National Competition Commission (CNC) as decrees have laid the organizational and structural contours. The president said Leopold Commission Boumsong, who was later in the MINCOMMERCE, was called to present the national aspects of competition and specifically the role of the National Competition Commission. This role, as insisted the minister, must strive to “prosecute and punish anti-competitive practices, based on texts dating and new like the law under protection on consumption, the new law on the organization of business and the foreign trade Act. “

THREE MAJOR ANTI-COMPETITIVE PRACTICES

The president of the CNC said against business leaders who filled the room Gicam there summarily 3 types of practices which have “the effect of preventing, distorting or restricting significantly, the year of competition in the internal market “under law No. 98/013 of 14 July 1998 on competition. This is abuse of a company or group of companies in a dominant market position, mergers and acquisitions as well as anti-competitive agreements. One the other, it appeared that anti-competitive practices in Cameroon are recorded in minutes drawn up by the Commission of the members following the investigations following a complaint from a natural or legal person or those initiated by them -Same.

Thereafter, the multilateral aspects of competition were discussed through the presentation of the role of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in support for competition policy. The economist of UNCTAD, Yves Kenfack discovered the UNCTAD code of competition which he praised the relevance while regretting that it was not binding on the signatory states.

Another moment of trade covered the Crusaders aspects between the views of the economist and that of the lawyer about the competition. It was Mr. Flavien Tchapga, economist, consultant also to Primerio International and associate professor at the Senghor University of Alexandria, which it is harnessed facing the audience of the Gicam conference room. The intervention of the latter can be reduced to a strong suggestion in response to the following question: “can we succeed awareness on competition if it does not take into account the specificities of the local environment? “. Response, in fact, in a context where 9 out of 10 companies are individual, beware formulas lawyers who are often larger and more complex to the nearest economists ground.

During the appointment of the competition, a panel discussion was opened to establish the educational dimension of the encounter. The debates and issues were under the leadership of Mr. Martin Abega, corporate director, former member of the National Competition Commission and Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cameroon.

Ultimately, the practical experiences of regulations and competition policies in Europe and Cameroon have clearly been crossed through Martine Behar-Touchais and Laurent Vidal one hand and Mr. Abdul Bagui other. It being understood that in Cameroon, regulation is broken by sector.

These are all practical difficulties related to the free exercise of competition that were screened. Smuggling, the persistence of monopolies in certain areas or counterfeiting within these pitfalls peeled for the service of international and local experts like the representatives of UNCTAD, CEMAC, OHADA and especially Cameroonian companies. Dr. Patricia Kipiani said it was important that “the reflections and exchanges back on the difficulties firms face, the difficulties related to unfair competition, their impact on the informal sector and other informal activities formal businesses. And also that an emphasis on regulation and economic policies that promote our economic space. “

Antitrust conference hosted by Pr1merio, CEMAC & Cameroonian Ministry

This Thursday, June 7th, 2016, the Ministry of Trade & Commerce of Cameroon, the CEMAC organisation of states, and law boutique Pr1merio, will host an all-day conference on competition law & business in Africa, taking place in Douala, Cameroon.

1425573796The brochure and press communiqué are available online.  Dr. Patricia Kipiani, the host of the event, legal scholar and Pr1merio attorney, notes that the event is almost sold out and few seats remain.  “We are excited to host the first-ever antitrust conference of its kind in Cameroon,” Kipiani notes.  “Our platform allows us to work directly with both scientific, scholarly, and governmental advisors to create fora like these, where experts are able to discuss cutting-edge issues in the burgeoning field of competition law on the continent,” adds Prof. Flavien Tchapga, who will also speak at the event.

 

Merger Control in Africa: Hot Topic at the 2016 ABA Spring Meeting

Key competition-law conference features dedicated panel discussion on African antitrust developments

By Michael-James Currie

The 54th annual American Bar Association Antitrust Spring Meeting was held in Washington, D.C., during the second week of April 2016 and the AAT editors were there to ensure that we provide our readers with an update on the latest developments in relation to African antitrust issues, discussed during a panel held last Friday.

ABA Africa Panelists

ABA Africa Panelists

Given that mergers hit a global all-time high last year with the total value of transactions amounting to over USD 4.6 trillion, merger control is certainly at the forefront of many antitrust practitioners. The interest in mergers and acquisitions has perhaps gained even further attention in light of the announcement this week that the USD160 billion Pfizer/Allergan global mega-deal has been officially abandoned, despite the transaction having already been filed before all the relevant competition agencies around the world. While the Pfizer/Allergan deal was called off as a result of new tax laws and therefore not as a result of antitrust issues directly, the deal did put multinational mega-deals firmly in the spotlight.

The Pfizer/Allergan deal is not the only mega-deal that faced significant government opposition. It was announced this week that Halliburton’s takeover of Baker Hughes, in a deal valued at USD 25 billion, is going to be strongly opposed by the U.S. DOJ.

It is, however, not only the U.S. Government that is having a significant impact on multinational deals, as evidenced by the Anbang Insurance and Starwood Hotels & Resorts deal, valued at USD 14 billion, which has also been abandoned after mounting pressure by the Chinese government.

From an African perspective, the South African Competition Commission just last week extended its investigation in the USD 104 billion SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev merger. It is widely suspected that the request for the extension is due to intervention by the Minister of Economic Development, in relation to public interest grounds. Although there is no suggestion at this stage that Minister Patel is opposing the deal, the proposed intervention does highlight bring into sharp focus the fact that multinational mega-deals face a number of hurdles in getting the deal done.

‘Getting multinational deals through’ is a hot topic at the moment amongst antitrust practitioners and is and the ABA thought it beneficial to have a panel discussion dedicated purely to merger control issues across African jurisdictions. In particular, the panel addressed some of the key issues which merging parties need to consider, including inter alia issues relating to harmonisation across agencies, the role of public interest considerations, prior implementation and the need for upfront substantive economic assessments.

The panel consisted of a varied mix of panellists from both private practice and government, and included Pr1merio director John Oxenham (he is also a founding partner at South African based law firm Nortons Inc.), economist and former Commissioner of the COMESA Competition Commission (COMESA CC) Rajeev Hasnah (Rajeev was also a former commissioner of the Mauritius Competition Commission and is an economist for Pr1merio), manager of the South African Competition Commission office, Wendy Ndlovu, and Kenyan based external counsel Anne Kiunuhe (Anne practices at the law firm Anjarwalla & Khanna).

The panellists were tasked with addressing a variety of topics: we summarise below some of the key issues which the panellists highlighted, which merging parties, practitioners and antitrust agencies themselves (amongst whom Tembikosi Bonakele, the South African Competition Commissioner was present in the panel audience) should be cognisant of in relation to merger control in Africa.

John Oxenham and Wendy

John Oxenham and Wendy Ndlovu at ABA Spring Meeting 2016 in Washington, D.C.

John Oxenham

John pointed out that from a South African perspective, mergers undergo a robust evaluation by the Competition Authorities and that although the investigation of most large mergers is completed within 60-70 days, the fact that the Commission may request the Competition Tribunal for an extension of up to 15 business days at a time, may result in the investigation of certain mergers taking considerably longer. The risk of a merger being delayed is increased significantly due to the level of third party interventionism, particularly ministerial intervention on public interest grounds.

John advised that merging parties should consider the impact that a particular merger will have on the public-interest grounds upfront to avoid delays in the investigation period as a result of further requests for information from the Commission, or may even amount to an incomplete filing.

In respect of substantive economic assessments, John pointed out that a number of jurisdictions, including South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and to a lesser extent Botswana, requires a substantive upfront economic assessment. In this regard the South African Competition Commission is perhaps the most robust in its economic evaluation of a merger in light of the resources dedicated to its own in-house economic department as well as utilising external experts when necessary. John also highlighted the fact that the South African Competition Authorities rely on oral testimony and expert witnesses are often subjected to substantial and lengthy examination and cross examination before the Competition Tribunal.

On the topic of gun-jumping or prior implementation, John mentioned that the following jurisdictions are examples of countries which do not require notification prior to implementing the transaction – in other words, they are not suspensory:

  1. Malawi
  2. Senegal
  3. Mauritius

Whereas the following countries do require notification prior to implementation (suspensory merger control jurisdictions):

  1. South Africa
  2. Swaziland
  3. Zambia
  4. Botswana

On harmonisation, John confirmed that in relation to public interest considerations in merger control, the South African competition authorities play a leading role on the African continent and pointed out that in addition to Kenya and Tanzania, Namibia also considers public interest considerations and that there is a substantial amount of collaboration and information sharing between the South African and Namibian competition authorities, as was the case in the Walmart/Massmart deal.

Despite the information sharing between agencies, John confirmed that there are rules in place to protect confidential and legally privileged information and that the South African competition authorities are cognisant and respectful of these provisions.

Rajeev Hasnah

Rajeev Hasnah, Pr1merio economist and former COMESA Competition Commissioner

Rajeev Hasnah, Pr1merio economist and former COMESA Competition Commissioner, and Anne Kiunuhe from Kenya

Rajeev noted the significant progress which the COMESA CC has made in relation to merger control by publishing financial thresholds for mandatorily notifiable transactions and specified filing fees, as well as publishing guidelines which clarify when a merger will have a sufficient regional dimension to fall within the COMESA CC’s jurisdiction.

On the topic of harmonisation, Rajeev discussed the challenges due to a lack of harmonisation between COMESA and its member states and noted that COMESA does not have exclusive jurisdiction in the cases which do fall within its jurisdiction. Parties, therefore, may find themselves being required to file a merger both before the COMESA CC as well as before the respective national authorities. A further challenge facing the COMESA CC is that there are 19 member states and consequently, the relevant geographic market is significant. Accordingly, often the national authorities are best placed to evaluate a merger and will therefore defer the evaluation of the merger to the relevant national authority.

On the role of economic assessments, Rajeev stated that an economic assessment underlies any merger evaluation and that both the Mauritius Competition Commission and the COMESA Competition Commission conducts a comprehensive economic assessment of a merger.

Wendy Ndlovu

When asked on what role public interest considerations play in merger control in terms of the South African competition regime, Wendy indicated that the framework of the Competition Act specifically requires the competition authorities to consider the impact that a merger may have on the four specified public interest provisions contained in the Act. Wendy confirmed that an evaluation of public interest considerations may both justify a merger despite the merger likely being likely to cause a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in the market, alternatively, public interest considerations may lead to a prohibition or the imposition of conditions on a merger which raises no competition law concerns and may in fact be pro-competitive.

Wendy recognised that there is a need, however, for greater certainty in respect to the manner in which the South African authorities evaluate public interest considerations and pointed out that the Competition Commission is likely to finalise and publish its guidelines on the public interest assessment in an effort to promote greater certainty.

On prior the issue of prior implementation, Wendy pointed out that merging parties need to be mindful of the consequences of gun-jumping and noted that the South African Competition Tribunal has imposed administrative penalties, as in the Netcare case, on parties for failing to notify a mandatorily notifiable transaction.

Anne Kiunuhe

Anne discussed the Competition Authority of Kenya’s (CAK) willingness to focus not only on merger control but has also identified the CAK’s increasing tendency to investigate and prosecute firms engaged in restrictive practices (as demonstrated by the recent dawn raids conducted by the CAK in the fertiliser industry). Despite the CAK’s growing confidence, Anne pointed out that in respect of merger control, the CAK is open to and in fact often relies on precedent from foreign jurisdictions when evaluating a merger. In particular, Anne noted that public interest grounds are specifically considered during the merger review procedure and that in this respect, the CAK largely takes the lead from the South African competition authorities.

From a practical perspective, Anne mentioned that the CAK usually requests a meeting with the merging parties soon after a transaction has been notified, and that usually representatives from the merging parties, along with local external legal counsel, should be present. The CAK prefers that the representatives present should be the best placed to answer or address the CAK’s queries. This often necessitates representatives from the parent company being present as opposed to representatives from the subsidiary entities only.

The direct contact between the CAK and the merging parties is quite different from the manner in which the COMESA CC evaluates mergers where the consideration of a merger is done solely on the papers and any communication between the COMESA CC and the merging parties is done through the merging parties’ local external counsel.

As to legislative developments, Anne pointed out that the merger regulations in Kenya now provide that for purposes of establishing a “change of control”, it is sufficient if the acquiring firm is able to materially influence the commercial decisions of the target firm. Accordingly, the acquisition of a minority shareholding for instance may constitute a change of control if the holders of such shares may for instance exercise veto rights.

On COMESA, Anne mentioned that the COMESA CC permits merging parties to seek a comfort letter when unsure as to whether a merger requires filing and that the use of comfort letters has been rather prevalent.

Conclusion

The role of public interest considerations in merger control was a dominant focus point throughout the panel discussion due to this unique aspect in a growing number of African jurisdictions merger control provisions.

Please click on the following link to access a an article on the role of public  interest considerations in merger control in South Africa, which addresses in particular, the impact of ministerial intervention in merger proceedings and the concomitant impact which such intervention has on the costs, timing and certainty of merger proceedings.

Exclusive AAT interview: Bonakele on antitrust conferences

meet the enforcers

In our latest instalment of our Meet the Enforcers series, we speak with South African Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele on the topic of hosting a series of academic & practitioner platforms to discuss cases and developments in competition-law enforcement.

This week, the South African Competition Commission and the Competition Tribunal successfully organised the 9th Annual Conference on Competition Law, Economics & Policy (as part of the 4th BRICS International Competition Conference), taking place in Durban, South Africa.

Commissioner Bonakele, the head of the SACC, discussed hosting the conference with AAT’s contributing author, Njeri Mugure, Esq.  According to his biography, Mr. Bonakele has been with the Commission for the past ten years. He briefly left the Commission in March 2013 and came back in October 2013 as Acting Commissioner. He has been in this position until his appointment as the Commissioner. Bonakele has occupied various positions in the Commission’s core divisions. He was appointed Deputy Commissioner in 2008, and prior to that worked as head of mergers, head of compliance and senior legal counsel respectively.

The AAT-exclusive interview follows:

Tembinkosi-Bonakele-Profile-Pic

AfricanAntitrust.com: South Africa has been participating in the BRICS International Competition Conference (“BRICS ICC”) since 2011, a year after she officially became a member of BRICS. This November the country will host the 4th of this biennial meeting in Durban. What are your goals for this year’s conference?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

The theme for the BRICS International Competition Conference 2015 is “Competition and Inclusive”. This theme will enable the conference to explore the relationship between competition and growth, competition and employment, competition and inequality and competition and poverty. As with the previous conferences, the aim of the conference is to strengthen cooperation amongst BRICS countries in the area of competition regulation by creating a platform for sharing experiences. We also aim to use the conference to discuss a proposed Memorandum of Understanding between BRICS competition agencies. Finally, the conference is also a platform for both developed and developing countries to discuss competition policy and enforcement issues.

AfricanAntitrust.com: Speaking of Durban, some might have expected for the 9th Annual Competition Law, Economics and Policy Conference (“Annual Competition Conference”) and/or the BRICS ICC to be held in Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa.  Could you tell us why you chose to hold the two conferences in Durban?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

We wanted a venue that would provide world class facilities for the conference as well as enjoyment for the delegates, and Durban ticks both boxes. The Kwazulu-Natal province, where Durban is situated, is home to rich natural resources, including Africa’s Big Five game and beautiful mountainous landscapes.

Durban itself is a diverse African city providing cultural diversity as well as a natural paradise known for its beautiful coastline beaches and subtropical climate. The City is also host to the largest and busiest harbor in Africa. The Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (Durban ICC), where the two conferences will be held, is the largest indoor conference facility in Africa.

The Commission has previously partnered with the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government, eThekwini (Durban) Municipality and the University KwaZulu-Natal on various activities.

AfricanAntitrust.com: In addition to hosting the Annual and the BRICS competition conferences, the South African Competition Commission (“the Commission”) along with Cresse and the University of Kwazulu-Natal will hold a joint workshop exploring areas such as collusions and cartels, unilateral and coordinated effects in mergers, the economics of exclusionary conducts, and use of economic evidence, among others. What do you hope this workshop will achieve?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

The economic understanding of competition policy is constantly evolving. In the last two decades economists have developed new theories of harm and traditional views have changed significantly. The workshop will bring top quality instruction on the economics of competition to agency officials in South Africa and more broadly Africa, competition practitioners, academics and policy makers. I hope that everyone attending the workshop will walk away having learned something new about the economics of competition.

AfricanAntitrust.com: Speaking of the this year’s events, planning the joint workshop, the Annual Competition Conference and the BRICS ICC was a great undertaking, could you tell us why you decided to have the three events back to back and what audience each event is tailored to suit?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

With the BRICS conference coming into South Africa was a great opportunity as so many people were interested to come. So many opinion makers, academics and practitioners were going to be in the country, so we organized all these events to take advantage of their presence, and the response was very positive. We also thought logistically it makes sense to have our annual conference organized back to back with BRICS, so we don’t get conference fatigued. In the end, all the events flow into each other.

The Joint Workshop is a technical training and knowledge sharing platform, looking at the latest thinking on various aspects of competition enforcement.

The conference is an annual academic platform to discuss cases and developments in competition law enforcement.

AfricanAntitrust.com: Turning to the BRICS International Competition Conference, in what way has this year’s agenda been informed by the previous three conferences? What impact do you think the previous conferences have had on antitrust discourse in BRICS and non-BRICS countries?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

The previous conferences, hosted by the Federal Antimonopoly Services of Russia in 2009, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of the People’s Republic of China in 2011 and Competition Commission of India in 2013, created a solid platform on which we can deepen our relations in the fi­eld of competition regulation.

South Africa has focused the conference on the relationship between growth and inclusivity. Furthermore, this year’s conference aims to institutionalize BRICS cooperation on competition matters, and move it beyond conferences. There is a proposed Memorandum and Understanding, as well as a joint research initiative.

AfricanAntitrust.com: There’s been a lot of debate surrounding public interest factors in merger review. What do you hope to achieve by including the topic to this year’s conference agenda?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

It is important that BRICS countries weigh-in on this important debate. There is a divergence of views amongst many antitrust practitioners on the compatibility of antitrust issues with public interest issues, but everyone accept that there are public interest issues. The conference will deepen and broaden perspectives on the matter.

AfricanAntitrust.com: How do these engagements such as the BRICS conference and competition law enforcement in general benefit the ordinary South African?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

The South African competition authorities were established as a package of reforms to transform the unequal South African economy to make it economy inclusive and ensuring that those who participate in it are competitive.

Through engagements such as the BRICS conference we’re able to discuss with our BRICS counterparts how to make our economies, which are similar, more efficient, competitive and inclusive.

The Commission has, in the past 16 years investigated and dismantled cartels from different sectors including construction, bread – a staple food for many South Africans, and cement. In the cement cartel, for instance, the Commission conducted a study post the cartel and discovered that we have saved consumers about R6 billion.

AfricanAntitrust.com: Mr. Bonakele, are there other topics you would have liked to address or comments you would like to add?

Tembinkosi Bonakele:

We see BRICS as an important and strategic platform where we advance arguments about the relationships between competition and other policy instruments that are very relevant in our developing countries.

As a collective, BRICS competition authorities are able to provide leadership in the international antitrust community on what it means to create and enforce competition law and policy in developing economies which come with their own particular challenges and opportunities. These perspectives will serve to enrich the global knowledge base in competition enforcement.

AfricanAntitrust.com: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Commissioner!

The interview was conducted by Ms. Mugure for AfricanAntitrust.com on 8 November 2015.

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