Bitter Sweet The OFT’s Recent Approach to Food Mergers

Richard Blewett, Jul 15, 2013

Tempers frayed earlier this year when the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) referred A.G. Barr plc’s acquisition of Britvic plc to the Competition Commission (“CC”). Britvic’s Chairman, Gerald Corbett attacked the OFT decision, saying “We’ve got two British companies trying to strengthen themselves against a big American corporation. If this is government industrial policy, I’m going to take French lessons.” Although the two companies then successfully took the deal through the CC process, it seems that the damage had already been done and it was reported shortly after publication of the CC’s unconditional clearance on July 9 that the deal had been abandoned.

Fortunately, a review of recent OFT decisions does not suggest a campaign of sustained sabotage against the U.K. food industry.  The two most recent OFT decisions in the food sector are considered below-soft drink manufacturer A.G. Barr plc’s acquisition of Britvic plc (Barrs/Britvic) and Nakano UK Holding Limited’s acquisition of the vinegar and pickles in vinegar businesses of Premier Foods Group Limited (Nakano/Premier)

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