Here are some headline facts and figures for UK merger control for the first quarter of 2021:
– Only seven Phase 1 cases opened
- Less than half the average number for Q1 in previous years and a joint record low for any quarter since the CMA was established in 2014.
- This follows on from a record Q4 low, a record Q3 low and a record Q2 low.
- In the past 12 months cases were only half the previous CMA average.
– Just seven Phase 1 decisions announced
- Half the Q1 average for previous years – comprising
- 4 unconditional clearances (one of them a de minimis finding)
- 1 reference to Phase 2
- 2 potential references subject to undertakings being offered and accepted
Taking the past 50 merger cases, the proportion of Phase 1 cases involving remedies or reference to an in-depth Phase 2 investigation is just below its record high of 40%.
– Four Phase 2 decisions, comprising
- 2 cases abandoned
- 1 merger prohibited
- 1 merger remedied through divestment
Taking the past 20 Phase 2 merger decisions, 13 have been prohibited or abandoned by the parties – a record high.
As in the previous quarter – a very low level of public investigations, despite a reportedly very high level of UK merger activity and the additional cases that the CMA anticipated following exit from the EU.
The number of Phase 1 investigations in progress is at its lowest April figure since 2015.
Here is a chart showing how the percentage of publicly-investigated cases that are cleared has evolved under the CMA.
The rate of clearance remains near its record low – but the fall seen over the past two years has recently stabilised, at least for now.
Bear in mind too that the rate of clearance for different types of case and the ‘trends’ in those rates are markedly different as discussed here.
To see the current picture for a wider range of Phase 1 metrics and how they compare to previous figures please click here.
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