UK Merger Control Statistics – Q4 2020

For those of you interested in UK merger control here are some headline facts and figures from the fourth quarter of 2020:

 Only eight Phase 1 cases opened

  • Half the average number for Q4 in previous years and a record low for any quarter since the CMA was established in 2014.
  • This follows on from a record Q3 low and a record Q2 low.
  • For 2020 as a whole cases were 40% down on the previous CMA average.

 Ten Phase 1 decisions announced

  • The third lowest quarterly figure – comprising
    • 8 unconditional clearances
    • 2 fast-track references to Phase 2
  • The rate of clearance was above the CMA average for the first time since early 2019 and the highest since the first quarter of 2019.

Taking the past 50 merger cases, the proportion of Phase 1 cases involving remedies or reference to an in-depth Phase 2 investigation has fallen back to 35% from its record high (in a 50-case moving average)

–  Fourteen Phase 1 decisions published, including much of interest including:

  • More examples of problematic internal documents
  • Merger rationales and valuations that added to competition concerns
  • A curious de minimis conclusion
  • A new catchment area approach

Three Phase 2 decisions, comprising

  • 1 case abandoned
  • 2 provisional SLCs

Taking the past 20 Phase 2 merger decisions, 65% have been prohibited or abandoned by the parties – a record high.


As in the previous quarter – a very low level of public investigations, but in this quarter featuring an unusually high proportion of clearances at Phase 1.

And finally….

Here are charts showing

  1. the overall pattern of CMA merger decisions in its first six years and
  2. how the percentage of publicly-investigated cases that are cleared has evolved under the CMA.

The latter shows that the rate of clearance remains near its record low but that the fall seen over the past two years has recently stabilised, at least for now.

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