The Year Ahead in EU Merger Control: Five Key Trends to Watch

By Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, Lexology

The dawn of a new year provides a great opportunity to take stock of where EU merger control might go in the next year. In this blog, we outline what we consider to be five key trends to watch out for in EU merger control in 2020.

In December, we reported on the new European Commission taking office (see our blog here). Unusually, the Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has been appointed for a second consecutive term, albeit with a wider and more powerful portfolio encompassing a Vice Presidency of the Commission overseeing Europe’s digital agenda. In this respect, Vestager’s ongoing crackdown on “big tech” and her laser focus on digital issues in competition law will continue. Vestager has said herself that her digital sector work may not have gone far enough during her first term, so we expect that she will hit the ground running in her second term with her broader mandate and enhanced experience on the job.

While the Commissioner remains the same, changes are coming at the top of the Directorate General for Competition – the body responsible for the day to day enforcement of EU competition law. In December 2019, the Commission announced that Olivier Guersent had been appointed as new Director General of DG Competition. While he is currently in charge of the Commission’s Financial Services initiatives, Guersent spent a significant part of his earlier career at DG Competition, including in the Merger Task Force. So, like Vestager, we expect Guersent will hit the ground running. We also note that Vestager has a very deep bench of advisers in her own private office (or Cabinet), including merger specialist Michele Piergiovanni who ran the DG Competition merger team specialising in technology and digital deals.

As a result, we expect continuity in approach from Vestager at the top and throughout DG Competition – that is, tough, focussed and enforcement-minded in particular with regard to the digital sector.

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