Thursday, September 7, 2017

Merger review of Qualcomm-NXP: European Commission stops the clock AGAIN

The website of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) indicates that the clock has been stopped for an unusual second time in the regulatory review of Qualcomm's proposed acquisition of NXP, which went into Phase II a few months back as it raises serious concerns. In fact, the previous suspension ended on August 16, 2017 (as I mentioned in a recent post), but just the next day--August 17--the deadline was suspended again.

Whatever the reason may be, it means that the deal still isn't ready to be cleared.

Are Qualcomm and/or NXP unwilling to provide information requested by the Commission? In a unilateral-conduct context, Qualcomm even went to court (and lost) because it didn't want to supply certain information. That could be what's happening in the merger control proceedings as well, but it's also possible that Qualcomm is paying the price for antagonizing DG COMP.

Are negotiations on potential commitments progressing slowly (and if so, is there much hope)? It's a mystery, but again, what's clear is that this deal is ever less likely to get unconditional clearance.

The fact that the EU has stopped the clock again apparently became discoverable only this week--the same week that a legal challenge by Qualcomm to a decision by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) went nowhere.

Behind the scenes, the Qualcomm-NXP merger review could be one of the most interesting and significant merger review cases in EU history, but unfortunately those merger control proceedings are very opaque (unless someone leaks documents, which happened in some cases but isn't the norm). I haven't even been able to find out which European companies and organizations are opposing the deal. If you know something about this merger control case that I don't, please tell me via my contact form.

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