Article 7 of Law No 4054 on Protection of Competition (“Competition Law”) governs mergers and acquisitions in particular, and mandates the Turkish Competition Board (“Board”) to regulate and establish a merger control regime. Accordingly, certain mergers and acquisitions are subject to the Turkish Competition Authority’s (“TCA”) review and approval in order to gain validity.
Law No 7246, the amendment to the Competition Law, was published in the Official Gazette and entered into force on 24 June 2020 (the "Amendment Law"). Furthermore, Communiqué No 2010/4 on Mergers and Acquisitions Requiring the Approval of the Board (“Communiqué No 2010/4”) is the primary legal instrument that establishes the Turkish merger control regime. On 4 March 2022, the TCA published Communiqué No 2022/2 on the Amendment of Communiqué No 2010/4 on the Mergers and Acquisitions Subject to the Approval of the Competition Board (“Communiqué No 2022/2”). Communiqué No 2022/2 introduces certain new regulations concerning the Turkish merger control regime, which has fundamentally affected the notifiability analysis of merger transactions and the merger control notifications submitted to the TCA.
Other guidelines adopted by the TCA on merger control matters are:
No other legislation is applicable to foreign transactions or investment in Turkey as far as the merger control rules are concerned, although there are specific merger control rules for mergers concerning banks, privatisation tenders and certain other sectors.
Banking Law No 5411 provides that mergers in the banking industry fall outside of the merger control regime, subject to the condition that the sectoral share of the total assets of the banks does not exceed 20%. The Competition Law does not apply to foreign acquiring banks already operating in Turkey, if the conditions for the application of the Banking Law exception are fulfilled.
Communiqué No 2013/2 prescribes an additional pre-notification process that applies to privatisations in which the turnover of the undertaking, asset or unit intended for the production of goods or services to be privatised exceeds TRY30 million. Statutory sales to public institutions and organisations, including local governments, are excluded for the purposes of this calculation. If the threshold is met, a pre-notification should be filed with the TCA before the public announcement of the tender specifications.
The Board will issue an opinion that will serve as the basis for the preparation of the tender specifications. This opinion does not mean that the transaction will be cleared. Following the tender, the winning bidder will still have to make a merger filing and obtain clearance before the Privatisation Administration’s decision on the final acquisition.
Other Sector-Specific Rules
There are various sector-specific rules alongside the merger control rules for sectors such as media, telecommunications, energy and petrochemicals. For example, in the energy sector, approval from the relevant authority is required for share transfers of more than 10% (5% in case of publicly traded company shares) in an electricity or natural gas company, and in the broadcasting sector, Law No 6112 states that a transfer of shares of a joint stock company holding a broadcasting licence should be notified to the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council.
The relevant legislation is enforced by the TCA, a legal entity with administrative and financial autonomy, which consists of the Board, the Presidency and service departments. The Board is the competent decision-making body of the TCA and is responsible for, inter alia, reviewing and resolving merger and acquisition notifications. The Board consists of seven members and is located in Ankara.
The Main Services Unit consists of:
There is a "sectoral" job definition of each supervision and enforcement department.
Other authorities may get involved in the review of mergers in certain sectors: For instance, the TCA is statutorily required to get the opinion of the Turkish Information Technologies Authority for mergers concerning the telecommunication sector and of the Turkish Energy Markets Regulatory Authority in energy mergers.
Article 7 of Communiqué No 2010/4 amended by the Communiqué No 2022/2 provides for the following thresholds:
A transaction will be required to be notified in Turkey if one of the following increased turnover thresholds is met (all currency conversions are based on the Turkish Central Bank's applicable average buying exchange rates for the financial year 2021):
Communiqué No 2022/2 introduced a thresholds exemption for undertakings active in certain markets/sectors. Pursuant to Communiqué No 2022/2, “the TL 250 million Turkish turnover thresholds” mentioned above will not be sought for the acquired undertakings active in or assets related to the fields of digital platforms, software or gaming software, financial technologies, biotechnology, pharmacology, agricultural chemicals and health technologies, if they (i) operate in the Turkish geographical market or (ii) conduct research and development activities in the Turkish geographical market or (iii) provide services to Turkish users.
The new regulation does not seek the existence of an "affected market" in assessing whether a transaction triggers a notification requirement, and if a concentration exceeds one of the alternative jurisdictional thresholds, the concentration will automatically be subject to the approval of the Competition Board.
Once the above-mentioned thresholds are exceeded, the parties are obliged to notify the transaction.
The following transactions are not subject to the approval of the Board:
Another exception pertains to the Turkish Wealth Fund, which was incorporated as a national wealth and investment fund company with Law No 6741. Transactions performed by the Turkish Wealth Fund and/or companies established by the Turkish Wealth Fund are not subject to merger control rules.
The Competition Law introduces penalties for failing to notify, or for closing the transaction before clearance. Where the parties to a merger or acquisition that requires the Board’s approval close the transaction without or before obtaining the Board’s approval, the Board imposes a turnover-based monetary fine of 0.1% of the turnover generated in the financial year preceding the date of the fining decision on the relevant undertaking(s); in acquisitions, the fine is levied on the acquirer, whereas in mergers it is levied on all merging parties. This monetary fine does not depend on whether or not the TCA ultimately clears the transaction.
The minimum amount of this fine is set at TRY47,409 (approximately EUR3,000 and USD3,200 as of 6 May 2022) for the year 2022, and is revised each year.
Article 7 Violations
If the parties close a transaction that violates Article 7 (ie, those that significantly impede competition especially by creating a dominant position or strengthening an existing dominant position), the Board will impose a turnover-based monetary fine of up to 10% of the parties’ turnovers generated in the financial year preceding the date of the fining decision. Employees and managers that had a determining effect on the creation of the violation may also be fined up to 5% of the fine imposed on the undertakings.
If the parties close a notifiable merger or acquisition without or before the approval of the Board, the transaction will be deemed legally invalid with all attendant legal consequences in Turkey, pending clearance.
If the Board finds that the transaction violates Article 7, it shall order the parties concerned, by a resolution, the behaviours which should be followed or avoided in order to establish competition, and the structural remedies such as transfer of certain activities or shareholdings. However, the relevant amendment introduces “first behavioural, then structural remedy” rule for Article 7 violations; therefore, in cases where behavioural remedies are ultimately considered to be ineffective, the Board will order structural remedies. Undertakings shall comply with the structural remedies in minimum of six months. If there is a possibility of serious and irreparable damages occurring, the Board is authorised to take interim measures until the final resolution on the matter. There have been many cases where companies have been fined for failing to file a notifiable transaction (BMW/Daimler/Ford/Porsche/Ionity, 20-36/483-211, 28 July 2020; Brookfield/JCI, 20-21/278-132, 30 April 2020; A-Tex Holding/Labelon Group, 16-42/693-311, 6 December 2016; Tekno İnşaat, 12-08/224-55, 23 February 2012; Zhejiang/Kiri, 11-33/723-226, 2 June 2011, etc).
The penalties are made public as they are announced via the Board’s reasoned decisions, which are published on the TCA’s official website.
Notifiable transactions are as follows:
These transactions are caught if they exceed the applicable thresholds (see 2.1 Notification).
Operations that do not involve the transfer of shares or assets can be caught if they result in a change of control and the parties’ turnovers surpass the applicable thresholds.
Communiqué No 2010/4 provides the definition of "control", which is akin to the definition in Article 3 of Council Regulation No 139/2004.
According to Article 5(2) of Communiqué No 2010/4, control can be constituted by rights, agreements or any other means that – either separately or jointly, de facto or de jure – confer the possibility of exercising a decisive influence on an undertaking, particularly by ownership or the right to use all or part of the assets of an undertaking, or by rights or agreements that confer decisive influence on the composition or decisions of the organs of an undertaking.
Acquisitions of minority or other interests that do not lead to a change of control on a lasting basis are not subject to notification. However, where acquired minority interests are granted certain veto rights that may influence the strategic management of the company (eg, privileged shares conferring management powers), then the nature of control could be deemed as changed (from sole to joint control) and the transaction could be subject to filing.
Please see 2.1 Notification for the jurisdictional thresholds and a threshold exemption for the undertakings active in certain markets/sectors.
Communiqué No 2010/4 sets out detailed rules for turnover calculation. The calculation methods can be summarised as follows:
However, there are certain special turnover calculation methods for entities such as banks, financial institutions, leasing companies, factoring companies, securities agents, insurance companies, etc.
Communiqué No 2022/2 also updates the rules that apply to the calculation of turnover of the financial institutions in accordance with the recent changes on the financial regulations. The recent updates of Article 9 of Communiqué No 2010/4 are as follows: (i) for the calculation of financial institutions' turnovers, Communiqué No 2022/2 aligns the wordings and terms in view of the applicable banking and financial regulations – it excludes the term "participation banks" and refers to the term "banks" in general, which covers all legal forms of banks; and (ii) Communiqué No 2022/2 updates the names and references of the relevant regulations issued by the Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Agency and the Capital Markets Board referred in Article 9 of Communiqué No 2010/4.
Regarding financial institutions, the turnover considered in the special turnover calculation method consists of the sum of the following.
Banks and Participation Banks
As included within the income statement requested under the Communiqué Concerning the Financial Tables to be Disclosed to the Public by Banks, and Related Explanations and Footnotes (Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Agency, 10/2/2007, 26430): interest and profit sharing income, collected fees and commissions, dividend income, commercial profits/losses (net), and other operational income.
Financial Leasing, Factoring and Funding Companies
As included within the income statement requested under the Communiqué Concerning the Uniform Accounting Plan to be Implemented by Financial Leasing, Factoring and Funding Companies and the Explanation Note Thereof, and Concerning the Format and Content of the Financial Tables to be Disclosed to the Public (the Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Agency, 17/5/2007, 26525): real operating income and other operating income.
Intermediary Institutions and Portfolio Management Companies
As included within the detailed income statement requested under the Communiqué Concerning the Principles on Financial Reporting within the Capital Market (the Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Agency, 9/4/2008, 26842): sales income, interests, fees, premiums, commissions and other income, other operating income, shares in the profits/losses of the investments valued via the equity method, and financial income other than operating income.
Insurance, Reassurance and Pension Companies
In accordance with the last financial statements or data either published by the Undersecretariat of the Treasury, the Association of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies of Turkey or the Pension Monitoring Centre, or disclosed to the public by the companies related to the merger or acquisition, to be confirmed by the Undersecretariat of Treasury: domestic direct premium production for insurance companies (gross), domestic direct premium production for reassurance companies (gross), the total amount of contributions and the total amount of funds in pension companies, as well as domestic direct premium production (gross) for those pension companies that also operate in life insurance.
Other Financial Institutions
Interest and similar income, income generated from securities, commissions, net profit generated from financial activities, and other operation income.
Sales and assets that are booked in a foreign currency should be converted into Turkish lira by using the average exchange buying rate of the Central Bank of Turkey for the financial year in which the sales or assets are generated.
Turnover-based thresholds are used in the Turkish merger control regime; therefore, the regime does not deal with asset-based thresholds.
See 2.6 Calculations of Jurisdictional Thresholds.
The seller’s turnover is only included in exceptional situations. It is included in joint-venture transactions if the seller remains a controlling party of the joint-ventures post-transaction (ie, both the seller and the buyer would be considered as buyers in cases where the buyer and the seller form a joint venture).
During the reference period, the Board will only consider the changes if they are reflected in the relevant balance sheets of the businesses in question.
Foreign-to-foreign transactions are subject to merger control if the turnover thresholds are triggered. The Competition Law states that the criterion to apply is whether or not the undertakings concerned affect the goods and services markets in Turkey. Even if the relevant undertakings do not have local subsidiaries, branches, sales outlets, etc, in Turkey, the transaction can still be subject to merger control if the relevant undertakings have sales in Turkey and thus have effects on the relevant Turkish market.
The likelihood of the Board discovering a transaction is relatively high, as it closely follows mergers and acquisitions in the local and international press, and also the case practice of the European Commission (the "Commission") and other important competition authorities. It may also examine the notifiability of past transactions in the context of a new notification.
The transaction could trigger a mandatory merger control filing requirement if it concerns the formation of a joint venture that will not be active in Turkey in the foreseeable future, to the extent the parents trigger the applicable thresholds.
There have been some cases where the Board has cleared decisions regarding joint ventures that do not involve sales in Turkey and considered them notifiable (most recently, Mitsubishi UFJ/Societe General, 14 May 2020, 20-24/309-149; TFS/SMMAF, 19-23/359-162, 27 June 2019; Leoni/Hengtong, 19-08/93-38, 21 February 2019; DENSO/Aisin Seiki, 19-04/32-13, 17 January 2019).
For example, in Daimler/Volkswagen-MT Holding (19-06/61-25, 7 February 2019), which concerns the acquisition of joint control over a JV that provides an online platform for sales and purchases of high-quality used cars to dealers and consumers in Germany, the Board decided that the transaction is subject to merger control filing in Turkey.
Article 7 of Communiqué No 2010/4 provides turnover-based thresholds and does not seek a market share threshold when assessing whether or not a notification is required for a transaction.
To the extent that the joint venture is full-function, the transaction is subject to merger control once the turnover thresholds are exceeded. To qualify as full-function, there must be joint control over the joint venture, and the joint venture must be an independent economic entity established on a lasting basis.
The Guideline on the Concept of Control explains the concept of full-functionality. The following elements should be considered:
See 2.8 Foreign-to-Foreign Transactions for the Board’s approach regarding joint venture cases.
If a transaction raises substantive competition law concerns and is viewed as problematic under the SIEC test, the TCA may still investigate the transaction, even if it does not meet the jurisdictional thresholds, either upon complaint or on its own initiative. The applicable limitation period is eight years, pursuant to Article 20(3) of the Law on Misdemeanours No 5326.
The Turkish competition law regime features a suspension requirement, whereby implementation of a notifiable concentration is prohibited until approval by the Board (Sections 7, 10, 11 and 16 of the Competition Law). See 2.13 Penalties for the Implementation of a Transaction Before Clearance. The implementation of a notifiable transaction is suspended until clearance by the Board is obtained. Therefore, a notifiable merger or acquisition shall not be legally valid until the approval of the Board is received, and such notifiable transaction cannot be closed in Turkey before the clearance of the Board.
Pursuant to Article 16 of the Competition Law, if the parties to a notifiable transaction violate the suspension requirement, a turnover-based monetary fine (based on the local turnover generated in the financial year preceding the date of the fining decision at a rate of 0.1%) will be imposed on the incumbent firms (the acquirer(s) in the case of an acquisition, or both merging parties in the case of a merger). A monetary fine imposed as a result of a violation of the suspension requirement will be no less than TRY47,409 (approximately EUR3,000 and USD3,200 as of May, 6 2022) for 2022. The wording of Article 16 does not give the Board discretion on whether or not to impose a monetary fine in case of a violation of the suspension requirement; once the violation of the suspension requirement is detected, the monetary fine will be imposed automatically.
These penalties are applied frequently in practice, see:
If the control is acquired from various sellers through a series of securities transactions in the stock exchange, the concentration could be notified to the Board after the transaction is realised, provided that the following conditions are satisfied:
Other than this, there are no general exceptions to the suspensive effect and it is not possible to seek a waiver or obtain derogation from the suspensive effect.
The Board would not permit closing before the clearance decision. There is no specific regulation allowing or disallowing carve-out or hold-separate arrangements, but the Board has so far consistently rejected all carve-out or hold separate arrangements proposed by undertakings (eg, Total SA, 20 December 2006, 06-92/1186-355; CVR Inc-Inco Limited, 1 February 2007, 07-11/71-23). The Board argued that a closing is sufficient for it to impose a suspension violation fine, and an analysis of whether change in control actually took effect in Turkey is unwarranted. The Board therefore considers the "carve-out" concept to be unconvincing.
There is no specific deadline for filing in Turkey. However, the filing should be made and approval should be obtained before the closing. In practice, it is recommendable to file the transaction at least 60 calendar days before the projected closing.
See 2.13 Penalties for the Implementation of a Transaction Before Clearance.
A binding agreement is not required prior to notification: parties can file on the basis of a less formal agreement, such as a letter of intent, a memorandum of understanding or a non-binding term sheet. There are some cases where the parties merely enclosed a letter of intent and/or a memorandum of understanding (Opel-Saft, 20-08/78-45, 6 February 2020; Greenbriar/BDP, 18-43/680-333, 15 November 2018; JIM/Terratec, 18-31/529-260, 12 September 2018 and Jihong/Grammer AG, 17-35/541-232, 26 October 2017). However, Communiqué No 2010/4 requires the submission of a written document prior to notification – ie, a filing cannot be made where there is nothing in writing (eg, based on a good-faith intention to reach an agreement).
No filing fees are required under the Turkish merger control regime.
Pursuant to Article 10 of Communiqué No 2010/4, a filing can be made solely by one of the parties or jointly by some or all of the parties. The filing can be submitted by the parties’ authorised representatives. In the event of filing by just one of the parties, the filing party should notify the other party.
The notification form is similar to Form CO. The Board requires one hard copy and an electronic copy of the notification form in Turkish to be submitted. The recent updates allow notifying parties to submit the notification form via "e-Devlet", an elaborate system of web-based services, including electronic submission. E-devlet was already made available for submissions, especially during the pandemic period. Now, Communiqué No 2010/4 explicitly mentions this alternative way of submission to make it official.
Additional documents are also required, such as the executed or current copies and sworn Turkish translations of the transaction document(s) that brings about the transaction, financial statements, including the balance sheets of the parties, and, if available, market research reports for the relevant market. A signed and notarised (and apostilled, if applicable) power of attorney is also required.
The TCA considers a notification to be complete when it receives the notification in its complete form. The parties are obliged to file correct and complete information with the TCA. If the parties provide incomplete information, the Board would request further data regarding the missing information. The Board deems notification to be complete on the date when the submitted information is complete.
In practice, the Board sends written information requests when there is information missing. The TCA’s written information requests will cut the review period and restart the 30 calendar-day period as of the date on which the responses are submitted.
The TCA imposes a turnover-based monetary fine of 0.1% of the turnover generated in the financial year preceding the date of the fining decision (if this is not calculable, the turnover generated in the financial year nearest to the date of the fining decision) in case incorrect or misleading information is provided by the parties (Brookfield, 20-21/278-132, 30 April 2020; Akzo Nobel, 10- 24/339-123, 18 March 2010).
Upon its preliminary review (Phase I) of the notification, the Board will decide either to approve or to investigate the transaction further (Phase II).
The Board notifies the parties of the outcome within 30 calendar days following a complete filing. There is an implied approval mechanism where a tacit approval is deemed if the Board does not react within 30 calendar days upon a complete filing. However, in practice, the Board almost always reacts within the 30-day period, either by sending a written request for information or – very rarely – by rendering its decision within the original 30-day period. In addition, the TCA frequently asks formal questions and adds more time to the review process, as it is advisable to notify the filing at least 60 calendar days before the projected closing.
If a notification leads to an investigation (Phase II), it turns into a full-fledged investigation, which, under Turkish law, takes about six months. If deemed necessary, this period may be extended only once, for an additional period of up to six months.
Other than privatisation tenders, the Turkish merger control rules do not have a pre-notification mechanism. Also, in practice, a filing is seen as a one-sided review by the TCA, once a formal one-shot notification is made. The TCA may issue various information requests, but it will only do so after the notification is made: see 3.6 Penalties/Consequences of Incomplete Notification and 3.8 Review Process.
It is common practice for the TCA to send written requests to the parties of the transaction, to any other party related to the transaction, or to third parties such as competitors, customers or suppliers.
The TCA’s written information requests will cut the review period and restart the 30-day period as of the date on which the responses are submitted.
Communiqué No 2010/4 also brought a modified notification form that will replace the current notification form as of 4 May 2022. According to the modified notification form, there is a short-form notification (without a fast-track procedure) if a transition from joint control to sole control is at stake or if there are no affected markets within Turkey.
The Turkish merger control regime does not include a fast-track procedure to speed up the clearance process. Apart from close follow-up with the case-handlers reviewing the transaction, the parties have no other possible way to speed up the review process.
The substantive test is a SIEC test with the Amendment Law, similar to the approach under ECMR. Hereby, the TCA will be able to prohibit not only transactions that may create a dominant position or strengthen an existing dominant position, but also those that could significantly impede competition. There is no case law or secondary legislation, as of the time of writing, regarding how the SIEC test will be applied.
In terms of creating or strengthening a dominant position, Article 3 of the Competition Law defines a dominant position as: “any position enjoyed in a certain market by one or more undertakings by virtue of which those undertakings have the power to act independently from their competitors and purchasers in determining economic parameters such as the amount of production, distribution, price and supply”. Market shares of about 40% and higher are considered, along with other factors such as vertical foreclosure or barriers to entry, as an indication of a dominant position in a relevant product market.
Pursuant to Communiqué No 2010/4, the relevant product markets are those that might be affected by the notified transaction where two or more of the parties are commercially active in the same product market (horizontal relationship), or where at least one of the parties is commercially active in the downstream or upstream market of any product market in which another party operates (vertical relationship).
The TCA closely follows the Commission decisions (eg, L’Oréal SA v The Body Shop, 06-41/515-136, 7 June 2006; IBM Danmark v Maersk Data, 04-69/983-239, 27 October 2004; Flir Systems v Raymarine, 10-44/762-246, 17 June 2010; Efes Pazarlama, 05-48/696-184, 21 July 2005) as well as the CJEU’s precedents, and regularly incorporates them into its decisions.
The Board has also referred to the US Federal Trade Commission decisions (eg, Google, 16-39/638-284, 16 November 2016), as well as the French and German competition authorities' precedents (eg, BSH Ev Aletleri, 17-27/454-195, 22 August 2017; Yemeksepeti, 16-20/347-156, 9 June 2016).
The TCA primarily focuses on unilateral effects, and may also consider co-ordinated effects (Ladik, 20 December 2005, 05-86/1188-340) and vertical effects (Migros, 9 July 2015, 15-29/420-117 – the transaction was conditionally cleared). However, the TCA has not yet prohibited a transaction on the grounds of "conglomerate effects".
The Board considers economic efficiencies to the extent that they operate as a beneficial factor in terms of better-quality production or cost-savings such as reduced product development costs through the integration, reduced procurement and production costs, etc.
Efficiencies that result from a concentration may play a more important role in cases where the activities of the parties overlap in Turkey regardless of their combined market shares. Unlike the previous sample notification form, the new form introduced with the Communiqué No 2022/2 does not provide liberty to skip the relevant sections of the notification form on efficiencies based on the parties’ market shares in the affected markets.
The TCA does not take non-competition issues such as industrial policies, national security, foreign investment, employment or other public interest issues into account when assessing a merger. Therefore, the TCA is independent while carrying out its duties. Article 20 of the Competition Law implies that no organ, authority, entity or person can give orders or directives to affect the final decisions of the Board.
The TCA has so far kept its independence and impartiality in its enforcement activities while considering both local and foreign investors. Merger control regulations are also applicable for foreign direct investments and there are no other separate merger control regulations for foreign direct investments.
Special consideration is given to joint ventures under the Turkish merger control regime. A joint venture must not have the object or effect of restricting competition between the parties and itself. Article 5 of the Competition Law defines that the parties may notify the non-full-function joint venture to the Board for individual exemption. Communiqué No 2010/4 provides individual exemption for full-function joint ventures if the joint venture has the object or effect of restricting competition between the parties and the joint venture.
The standard SIEC test applies to the full-function joint venture. In addition, the notification form includes a certain section that is aimed at collecting information to assess whether the joint venture will lead to co-ordination. Article 13/3 of Communiqué No 2010/4 provides that the Board would carry out an individual exemption review on notified joint ventures that emerge as an independent economic unit on a lasting basis, but have as their object or effect the restriction of competition among the parties or between the parties and the joint venture itself. The wording of the standard notification form also allows for such a review.
Non-full-function joint ventures are not subject to merger control but may fall under Article 4, which prohibits restrictive agreements. The parties may conduct a self-assessment to see if the non-full-function joint venture fulfils the conditions of individual exemption.
The Board may render either a clearance or a prohibition decision; it may also decide to give a conditional approval.
The Board has broad powers during the investigation stage. If it determines that the transaction may violate the Competition Law, the Board may notify the undertaking or associations of undertakings concerned of a decision regarding the actions to be taken or avoided so as to establish competition and maintain the situation before infringement, and forward its opinion on how to terminate such infringement.
The Board may re-examine a clearance decision at any time, and decide on prohibition and the application of other sanctions for a merger or acquisition if the clearance was granted based on incorrect or misleading information from one of the undertakings or if the obligations provided in the decision are not complied with.
For there to be a prohibition decision, the Board must show that the transaction could significantly impede competition. In cases of conditional clearance, the Board must show that the transaction would have produced these effects, absent the relevant structural and/or behavioural remedies.
The parties are able to negotiate remedies according to Article 14 of Communiqué No 2010/4, which enables the parties to provide commitments to remedy substantive competition law issues of a concentration under Article 7.
The Remedy Guideline requires that the parties should submit detailed information on how the remedy would be applied and how it would resolve the competition concerns. It states that the parties can submit behavioural or structural remedies, and explains the acceptable remedies, such as divestment in order to cease all kinds of connection with the competitors, remedies that enable undertakings to access certain infrastructure issues (eg, networks, intellectual property, essential facilities) and remedies on concluding/amending long-term exclusive agreements.
Pursuant to the Remedy Guideline, the parties must take the following principles into consideration when submitting proposed remedies:
The Board should only accept remedies that have been proven to be sufficient in eliminating the problem of significant reducing competition. In addition, the Remedy Guideline requires the remedies to be capable of being implemented effectively as soon as possible, as market conditions may not stay the same until the implementation of the proposed remedy.
The number of cases in which the Board has requested divestment or licensing commitments or other structural or behavioural remedies has increased dramatically in the last few years. In practice, the Board is inclined to apply different types of divestment remedies. Examples of the Board’s pro-competitive divestment remedies include divestitures, ownership unbundling, legal separation, access to essential facilities, obligations to apply non-discriminatory terms, etc.
The Remedy Guideline
The Remedy Guideline includes all steps and conditions for the enforcement of remedies.
The intended effect of the divestiture will take place only if the divestment business is assigned to a suitable purchaser that is capable of creating an effective competitive power in the market. To make sure that the business will be divested to a suitable purchaser, the proposed remedy must include the elements that define the suitability of the purchaser.
The approval of a possible purchaser by the Board is dependent on the following requirements:
The conditions may be revised on a case-by-case basis. For instance, in some cases, an obligation may be imposed such that the purchaser is not the one that seeks financial investment but the one that is active in the sector.
As per the Remedy Guideline, there are two methods that are accepted by the Board. The first is for a purchaser fulfilling the aforementioned conditions to acquire the divested business, within a period of time following the authorisation decision and upon the approval of the Board. The second is the signing of a sales contract with a suitable purchaser before the authorisation decision ("fix-it-first").
The parties may submit proposals for possible remedies during either the preliminary review or the investigation process.
There have been several cases where the Board has accepted remedies or commitments (such as divestments) proposed to or imposed by the Commission, as long as these remedies or commitments ease competition law concerns in Turkey (eg, Bayer/Monsanto, 18-14/261-126, 8 March 2018; Nidec/Embraco, 19-16/231-103, 18 April 2019; Synthomer plc/OMNOVA Solutions, 20-08/90-55, 6 February 2020).
See 5.1 Authorities’ Ability to Prohibit or Interfere With Transactions.
The Board may condition its approval decision on the observance of the remedies. The characteristics of the remedies are important when determining whether the parties may complete the transaction before the remedies are complied with. The remedies have different natures – some a condition precedent for the closing, some an obligation that could only be complied with after closure – and the parties cannot complete the transaction before the remedies are complied with before the closing.
The TCA imposes a turnover-based monetary fine of 0.05% of the turnover generated in the financial year preceding the date of the fining decision (if this is not calculable, the turnover generated in the financial year nearest to the date of the fining decision will be used) if the parties do not comply with the remedies.
The Board serves the final decisions to the representative(s) of the notifying party/parties, and also publishes final decisions on the website of the TCA after any confidential business information is taken out.
In an example of a conditional clearance case (Synthomer plc/OMNOVA Solution, 20-08/90-55, 6 February 2020), the Board granted its conditional approval to the transaction based on the commitments provided by the parties to Commission during its Phase II review. Moreover, in Nidec/Embraco (19-16/231-103, 18 April 2019), Bayer Aktiengesellschaft (18-14/261-126, 8 May 2018) and in NV Bekaert (15-04/52-25, 22 January 2015), the Board granted its conditional approval to the transactions based on the commitments provided by the parties during its Phase II review. The Board also prohibited the acquisition by Setur (a subsidiary of Koç Holding, Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerate) of Beta Marina and Pendik Turizm.
While there are few decisions where behavioural remedies were recognised (eg, Bekaert/Pirelli, 22 January 2015, 15-04/52-25; Migros/Anadolu, 9 July 2015, 29/420-117), the great majority of conditional clearance decisions rely on structural remedies (eg, Harris Corporation/L3 Technologies, 20 June 2019, 19-22/327-145; Nidec/Embraco, 18 April 2019, 19-16/231-103).
In some of these cases (eg, Cadbury/Schweppes, 07-67/836-314, 23 August 2007), the parties initially proposed purely behavioural remedies, which ultimately failed. However, in Luxoticca/Essilor (1 October 2018, 18-36/585-286), certain structural and behavioural remedies were submitted to the TCA and the Board approved the transaction.
The Board’s approval of the transaction shall also cover the restraints that are directly related and necessary to enforce the transaction (Article 13(5) of Communiqué No 2010/4). Therefore, a restraint shall be covered to the extent that its nature, subject-matter, geographic scope and duration are limited to what is necessary to enforce the transaction.
General rules on ancillary restraints are defined in the Guideline on Undertakings Concerned. The parties make a self-assessment as to whether a certain restriction could be deemed as ancillary; therefore, the Board will not allocate a separate part in its decision to explaining about the ancillary status of all the restraints. The Board may review the restraints per the parties’ request, and may launch an Article 4 investigation if the ancillary restrictions are not compliant with the merger control regulation.
The Board is authorised to request information from third parties such as customers, competitors, complainants and other persons related to the transaction. During the review process, third parties may submit complaints about a transaction and request a hearing from the Board, provided that they prove their legitimate interest to do so. They may also challenge the Board’s decision regarding the transaction before the competent judicial tribunal, again provided that they prove their legitimate interest.
If the legislation requires the TCA to ask for another public authority’s opinion, this would cut the review period, which would start when the Board receives the public authority’s opinion.
The Board frequently contacts third parties as part of its review process, where needed, usually in a written form; oral communication with third parties is of an exceptional nature. There are a limited number of decisions where the Board has applied an economic test on the proposed remedies (eg, Mars Sinema v AFM, 11-57/1473-539, 17 November 2011). Although the Board does not tend to conduct a proper economic analysis, it does, however, make a comprehensive assessment on the content of the proposed remedies (eg, Anadolu v Moonlight Capital, 15-29/420-117, 9 July 2015).
Communiqué No 2010/4 introduces a mechanism that requires the TCA to publish notified transactions on its official website, including only the names of the undertakings concerned and their areas of commercial activity. Once the parties have notified a transaction to the TCA, the existence of a transaction is no longer a confidential matter. Communiqué No 2010/3 on the Regulation of Right to Access to File and Protection of Commercial Secrets (“Communiqué No 2010/3”) is the main legislation that regulates the protection of commercial information, pursuant to which undertakings must identify and justify information or documents as commercial secrets.
It is the undertakings’ obligation to request confidentiality from the Board in writing, and to justify their reasons for the confidential treatment of the information or documents. The general rule is that if confidentiality is not requested, then the information and documents are accepted as non-confidential.
The reasoned decisions of the Board are published on the website of the Authority after confidential business information has been removed. Moreover, the Board and personnel of the TCA are bound by a legal obligation not to disclose any trade secrets or confidential information they have acknowledged during the course of their work.
In the event that the Board decides to have a hearing during the investigation, hearings at the TCA are, in principle, open to the public, although the Board may decide that the hearing shall be held in camera, in order to protect public morality or trade secrets. Article 15(2) of Communiqué No 2010/3 implies that the TCA may not take into account confidentiality requests related to information and documents that are necessary evidence to prove the infringement of competition. In such cases, the TCA can disclose such information and documents that could be considered trade secrets by taking into account the balance between public interest and private interest, and in accordance with the proportionality criterion.
The TCA is authorised to contact certain regulatory authorities around the world, including the Commission, in order to exchange information. Article 43 of Decision No 1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council (Decision No 1/95) empowers the TCA to notify and request the Commission (Competition Directorate-General) to apply relevant measures if the Board believes that transactions realised in the territory of the European Union adversely affect competition in Turkey. Such provision grants reciprocal rights and obligations to the parties (EU-Turkey) and, thus, the Commission has the authority to request the Board to apply relevant measures to restore competition in the relevant markets.
In addition, TCA’s research department makes periodical consultations with relevant domestic and foreign institutions and organisations.
In the past, the Commission has been reluctant to share any evidence or arguments that the TCA had explicitly requested on a limited number of occasions.
Authorities are not obliged to seek the parties’ permission to share information with each other.
Parties can appeal the Board’s final decisions before the administrative courts of Ankara, including decisions on interim measures and fines. Third parties can also challenge a Board decision before the competent administrative courts, provided that they have a legitimate interest. Decisions of the Board are considered as administrative acts, thus legal actions against them shall be pursued in accordance with the Turkish Administrative Procedural Law. The judicial review comprises both procedural and substantive review.
Filing an administrative action does not automatically stay the execution of the decision of the Board, however, at the request of the plaintiff, the court – by providing its justifications – may decide on a stay of execution if the execution of the decision is likely to cause serious and irreparable damages, and if the decision is highly likely to be against the law (ie, showing of a prima facie case).
Judicial Review Period
Administrative litigation cases are subject to judicial review before the regional courts. This creates a three-level appellate court system consisting of administrative courts, regional courts and the High State Court.
The regional courts will go through the case file, on both procedural and substantive grounds, and investigate the case file and make their decision considering the merits of the case. The regional courts’ decisions will be considered as final in nature. The decision of the regional court will be subject to the High State Court’s review in exceptional circumstances under Article 46 of the Administrative Procedure Law.
In such a case, the High State Court may decide to uphold or reverse the regional courts’ decision. If the decision is reversed by the High State Court, it will be remanded back to the deciding regional court, which will in turn issue a new decision that takes the High State Court’s decision into account.
The parties should file an appeal case within 60 calendar days of receiving the reasoned decision of the Board. The judicial review period before the Ankara administrative courts of first instance usually takes about 12 to 24 months. The appeal period before the High State Court usually takes about 24 to 36 months. Decisions of courts in private suits are appealable before the Supreme Court of Appeals. The appeal process in private suits is governed by the general procedural laws and usually lasts 24 to 30 months.
Third parties can challenge a Board decision before the competent administrative courts provided they have a legitimate interest.
Communiqué No 2022/2 was published in the Official Gazette on 4 March 2022 and it entered into force on 4 May 2022. Communiqué No 2022/2 raised the jurisdictional turnover thresholds under Article 7 of Communiqué No 2010/4.
Two of the most significant developments that the Communiqué No 2022/2 entails, inter alia, are the introduction of threshold exemption for undertakings active in certain markets/sectors and the increase of the applicable turnover thresholds for the concentrations that require mandatory merger control filing before the Competition Authority.
Communiqué No 2022/2 does not seek a Turkish nexus in terms of the activities that render the threshold exemption. In other words, it would be sufficient for the target company to be active in the fields of digital platforms, software or gaming software, financial technologies, biotechnology, pharmacology, agricultural chemicals or health technologies anywhere in the world for the threshold exemption to become applicable, provided that the target company (a) generates revenue from customers located in Turkey; or (b) conducts R&D activities in Turkey; or (c) provides services to the Turkish users in any fields other than the above-mentioned ones. Accordingly, Communiqué No 2022/2 does not require (a) generating revenue from customers located in Turkey; or (b) conducting R&D activities in Turkey; or (c) providing services to the Turkish users concerning the fields listed above for the exemption on the local turnover thresholds to become applicable.
Concentrations related to the fields of digital platforms, software or gaming software, financial technologies, biotechnology, pharmacology, agricultural chemicals or health technologies are expected to be more closely scrutinised by the Competition Authority.
Enforcement actions by the Board are very frequent in the merger control field. There are several cases where the Board levied monetary fines against the parties for failing to notify in foreign-to-foreign transactions. The same is true for conditional clearances. So far, only a few transactions have been blocked altogether (eg, Setur, 15-29/421-118, 9 July 2015).
The Board adopted many significant decisions in the past year.
In TIL/Marport (20-37/523-231, 13 August 2020), the Board refused to grant approval to the acquisition of sole control of Marport Liman İşletmeleri Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi (Marport) by Terminal Investment Limited Sàrl (TIL). The Board stated that the transaction mainly related the container terminal management sector while Marport’s other activities included temporary storage, pilotage and towage and ancillary port services. The Board defined the relevant product market as “port management for container handling services” by referring to its Limar/Mardaş decision.
The Board also made two separate downstream market definitions as (i) port management for container handling services concerning transit traffic; and (ii) port management for container handling services concerning hinterland traffic. As for the relevant geographic market, the Board preferred a narrow definition and defined the relevant geographic market as “Northwest Marmara” for the markets concerning local loads. However, the geographic market definition for the markets concerning transit loads was left open.
In defining the relevant geographic markets, the Board took into consideration various factors such as the location of the ports, the transportation facilities and customer choices. In its competitive assessment, the Board stated that the transaction led to a horizontal overlap in the port management for the container handling services market and a vertical overlap in the container line transportation market. The Board applied the SIEC test rather than solely assessing whether the transaction led to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position in the relevant markets. In conclusion, taking into account that the transaction was likely to cause significant impediment of effective competition, the Board refused to grant clearance within the scope of Article 7 of the Competition Law.
The Board’s no-go decisions are very rare. The Marport decision is of significant importance as it constitutes a recent example in which the Board decided not to clear a joint-to-sole control transaction further to its detailed competitive assessment based on the SIEC test, which was recently introduced to the Turkish Competition law enforcement.
With regard to 2021, the Board reviewed 309 transactions in total, including 277 mergers and acquisitions that were approved unconditionally, three decisions that were approved conditionally. Twenty-nine were out of the scope of merger control (ie, they either did not meet the turnover thresholds or fell outside the scope of the merger control system owing to a lack of change in control).
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Overview of Merger Clearance Applications Before the Turkish Competition Authority in 2021 and the First Half of 2022
The Turkish Competition Authority faced a rise of around 40% in merger clearance cases between 2020 and 2021, from 220 cases decided in 2020 to 309 cases reviewed and resolved upon by the Turkish Competition Board in 2021. As per the 2021 M&A Visibility Report of the Turkish Competition Authority, 118 of the 309 notified transactions concerned targets established in Turkey, whereas more than half (ie, 173 cases) were transactions that were closed abroad between foreign parties. The increase in merger clearance cases in 2021 to a level above the past nine years’ average was likely impacted by the Turkish lira losing value against the euro and the US dollar and therefore more transactions exceeding the statutory turnover thresholds for mandatory merger clearance notification in Turkey. These turnover thresholds were revised upwards in March 2022 along with other significant changes in Turkish merger control rules, which are discussed below in Section A.
Among the 309 merger control decisions of the Turkish Competition Board in 2021, 29 transactions were found to be out of the scope of Turkish merger control regulations, either because no lasting change of control was found or because the relevant statutory turnover thresholds were not exceeded by the transaction parties. Between the remaining transactions notified to the Turkish Competition Authority, 277 were cleared unconditionally whereas three were subject to a conditional clearance based on remedies offered by the parties and accepted by the Turkish Competition Board. Please see Section B below for a brief overview of these conditional clearance decisions of the Turkish Competition Board.
Based on online announcements of the Turkish Competition Authority as of 6 June 2022, 41 transactions have been notified for merger clearance in Turkey in the first half of 2022 and more than half of these notifications (ie, 22 cases) have been resolved with the clearance of the Turkish Competition Board already, although the detailed decisions have not been published yet. The Turkish Competition Board has announced its decision to move to the final investigation stage (the equivalent of Phase II proceedings in Turkey) in two ongoing merger clearance cases in the first half of 2022, one regarding the acquisition of assets composed of cement plants, mills and packaging facilities in Turkey and the other regarding the acquisition of sole control over a Turkish target company active in the refractory materials sector.
A. Changes to Turkish Merger Control Rules and Guidelines in March 2022
A new communiqué from the Turkish Competition Authority (Communiqué No 2022/02, the “Amendment Communiqué”) has come into force on 4 May 2022, amending several key elements of the Communiqué Regarding Mergers and Acquisitions Subject to Competition Board Approval (the “Merger Clearance Communiqué”), which is the main piece of secondary legislation setting out the merger control rules applicable in Turkey. The Amendment Communiqué was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey dated 4 March 2022 and numbered 31768. An overview of the key amendments can be reviewed below.
1. Turnover Thresholds for Required Merger Clearance Applications Revised
A merger or an acquisition that is within the scope of the Merger Clearance Communiqué is required to be cleared by Turkish Competition Board before it can have legal effect in Turkey, provided that the Turkish and global turnovers of the transaction parties exceed the thresholds given under Article 7 of the Merger Clearance Communiqué. The Amendment Communiqué has revised these thresholds upwards in line with the current needs of the market and the foreign currency rate fluctuations in Turkey, without changing the structure of the relevant subclauses (a) and (b) of Article 7(1). The revisions can be seen below along with the previous numbers (which are indicated in brackets):
(a) the aggregate Turkish turnover of the transaction parties exceeds (TL100) TL750 million and at least two of the transaction parties individually have a Turkish turnover over (TL30) TL250 million; or
(b) the Turkish turnover of the target asset or business in acquisition transactions (or of at least one of the transaction parties in merger transactions) exceeds (TL30) TL250 million and at least one of the other transaction parties has a worldwide turnover over (TL500 million) TL3 billion.
The Merger Clearance Communiqué sets out the principles applicable to calculating the relevant turnovers of the transaction parties as follows:
2. Different Turnover Threshold Structure Introduced for Acquisitions of Technology Undertakings
As per the new subparagraph 2 of Article 7 under the Merger Clearance Communiqué, in the case of acquisitions of technology undertakings that (i) operate in the Turkish market; or (ii) have R&D activities in the Turkish market; or (iii) provide services to users located in Turkey, the thresholds of TL250 million provided above under subclauses (a) and (b) of Article 7(1) shall not be sought. Accordingly, for technology undertakings the relevant merger control notification thresholds in Turkey would read as follows:
(a) the aggregate Turkish turnover of the transaction parties exceeds TL750 million; or
(b) at least one of the transaction parties (other than the target asset or business in acquisition transactions) has a worldwide turnover over TL3 billion.
Technology undertakings are defined as “undertakings operating in the fields of digital platforms, software and game software, financial technologies, biotechnology, pharmacology, agriculture chemicals and health technologies, or assets related thereto”. The purpose of this addition has been explained in the announcement of the Turkish Competition Authority as ensuring that acquisitions of technology undertakings by undertakings with notable market power in digital markets are largely subjected to review and thereby preventing killer acquisitions of start-ups and developing undertakings. It is in this spirit that we would compose the revised (b) threshold without the threshold of TL250 million in the manner provided above, ie referring not to “at least one of the transaction parties” but to “at least one of the transaction parties (other than the target asset or business in acquisition transactions)”, on the basis that in the original threshold under Article 7(1), the second threshold refers to “at least one of the other transaction parties”. Nevertheless, please note that the Amendment Communiqué simply states that the thresholds of TL250 million provided under subclauses (a) and (b) of Article 7(1) shall not be sought in the case of acquisitions of technology undertakings.
3. The SIEC Test Introduced Under 2020 Amendment to Turkish Competition Law Reflected
The applicable criterion for the assessment of mergers and acquisitions by the Turkish Competition Board for merger clearance purposes was changed on 24 June 2020 from a “dominance test” to a “significant impediment of effective competition (“SIEC”)” test. Accordingly, Law No 7246 Regarding the Amendment of the Law on the Protection of Competition (published in the Official Gazette dated 24 June 2020 and numbered 31165) revised Law No 4054 on the Protection of Competition (the “Turkish Competition Law”, first published in the Official Gazette dated 13 December 1994 and numbered 22140) by amending Article 7 concerning which mergers or acquisitions are prohibited under Turkish Competition Law. In the previous merger control regime, mergers or acquisitions that would result in a significant reduction of competition in any goods or services market in all or a part of the country with a view to the creation of a dominant position or the strengthening of an existing dominant position were against the law and prohibited. In the current revised merger control regime, the creation of a dominant position or the strengthening of an existing one is no longer a required criterion in the merger control review of the Turkish Competition Board. Instead, mergers or acquisitions that would result in the significant reduction of effective competition in any goods or services market in all or a part of the country, foremost by the creation of a dominant position or the strengthening of an existing one, are against the law and prohibited.
Therefore, in the new regime, a transaction that does not create or strengthen a dominant position but is deemed to significantly reduce effective competition in a market for goods or services within the whole or a part of the country could theoretically be blocked by the Turkish Competition Board, although the existence of a dominant position remains an important factor in the merger control review of the Board. This introduction of the SIEC test replacing the “dominance test” was finally reflected in the Merger Clearance Communiqué with the Amendment Communiqué.
4. Standard Notification Form for Merger Clearance Applications Reconfigured
A new notification form has been included as an annex to the Amendment Communiqué, which replaces the existing notification form provided under the Merger Clearance Communiqué. In the announcement of the Turkish Competition Authority, the changes have been described as being part of a transition into a completely electronic format. In a practice accelerated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, notification forms can already be submitted electronically to the Authority over the e-government services platform; however, the notification form is completed offline and is not itself in electronic form. The contemplated transition into a completely electronic format is expected to reduce secretarial costs and allow for a quicker turnaround for merger clearance applications by making it possible for applicants to provide missing information in a faster and more practical manner based on the Authority’s requests for information following the notification. Indeed, the form has been re-formatted to include more box-ticking and tables rather than long-form explanations, with several previous questions now broken down into multiple items with a specific answer format.
In addition to such formatting changes, there have also been substantive revisions. The new form covers all of the content that was requested under the previous form; however, several transaction- and market-related questions now require more specific answers with more hard data. Significantly, the notification form has been rearranged under five headings that bring together related queries that were previously spread out under ten different headings, which allows for a more systematic approach. The five new headings are:
1) Information Regarding the Transaction;
2) Information Regarding the Parties;
3) Information Regarding the Markets;
4) Joint Ventures; and
5) Contact Information.
A final notable change that will impact the burden on applicants when filling out the notification form is the instruction on which parts of the form can be omitted in transactions where there is less likely to be a significant anti-competitive concern. In the previous notification form, sections 6 (Information Regarding the Affected Market), 7 (Market Entry Conditions and Potential Competition) and 8 (Efficiency Gains) could be omitted:
(a) if one of the transaction parties shall acquire full control of an undertaking that was previously under its joint control; or
(b) with respect to any affected market in Turkey and the relevant geographic markets, if in such affected market, the aggregate market share of the transaction parties is less than 20% for horizontal relationships, and less than 25% for vertical relationships.
However, in the new notification form, the relevant queries under the new sections 3 (Information Regarding the Markets), 4 (Joint Ventures) and 5 (Contact Information) corresponding to the former sections identified above and including information identifying affected markets and providing market shares in affected markets can be omitted only:
(a) if one of the transaction parties shall acquire full control of an undertaking that was previously under its joint control; or
(b) if there is no affected market in Turkey.
It remains the case that under the relevant guidelines of the Turkish Competition Authority, there is a defeasible assumption that if the aggregate market share of the transaction parties is less than 20% for horizontal relationships, and less than 25% for vertical relationships, any anti-competitive impacts of the merger or acquisition transaction are not at a level that requires detailed investigation or withholding merger clearance. Nevertheless, the Turkish Competition Authority now requests full information under the new notification form if there is any affected market in Turkey.
5. Revisions to the Guidelines on the Assessment of Horizontal and Non-horizontal Mergers
In line with the amendments to the Merger Clearance Communiqué, the Turkish Competition Authority has announced that it has revised the Guidelines on the Assessment of Horizontal Mergers and Acquisitions (the “Horizontal Merger Guidelines”) and the Guidelines on the Assessment of Non-Horizontal Mergers and Acquisitions (the “Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines”). The new 2022 versions of the Horizontal Merger Guidelines and Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines (together, the “Assessment Guidelines”) that have been published include revisions that can be grouped as follows.
(i) Reflection of the introduction of the SIEC test replacing the dominance test
The references to the dominance test have been replaced by the SIEC test in the Assessment Guidelines and further explanations have been added in the appropriate sections to illustrate the Turkish Competition Authority’s approach to the “significant impediment of effective competition” criterion.
In particular, under the Horizontal Merger Guidelines, we see further developed discussion of close competition and close substitutes under the section on unilateral effects. In the section on coordinated effects, a new table putting together the general criteria for the assessment of coordinated effects is provided and new paragraphs on the impact of mergers with maverick firms and the impact of surplus capacity are added. The section on potential competition is fleshed out and a new section on acquisitions of start-ups and nascent firms is introduced, covering both killer acquisitions and impact on potential competition. As for the Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, in addition to varied revisions to reflect to SIEC criterion, subsections on input limitation under the section on unilateral effects are expanded, as well as the section on conglomerate mergers.
(ii) Inclusion of more guidance on technology and digital sector transactions
In general, the revisions to the Assessment Guidelines reveal a notable effort to bring in more examples based on the different competition dynamics that may apply to transactions in sectors where intellectual property, data and network/platform users are the most important assets and innovation is a central market force, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, biotechnology, technology, and digital sectors.
Under the Horizontal Merger Guidelines, a new section titled “Effects Related to Innovation and Consumer Data” has been added. Specific references to technology and digital sector acquisitions are made under the new section on acquisitions of start-ups and nascent firms. In the pre-existing section on the likelihood of market entries, there is a new evaluation of the role of data in forming a barrier to entry in digital platform markets.
In the Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, a new section titled “Other Unilateral Effects” has been added to cover the impact of a vertically integrated merged entity now having access to the commercially sensitive information of competitors active in upstream or downstream markets, with specific references of digital services and platforms. The discussion on coordinated effects under the relevant section has also been revised to include new examples from sectors that have “data-heavy” characteristics.
B. Notable Merger Control Decisions of the Turkish Competition Board in 2021
As mentioned above, the Turkish Competition Board resolved upon three merger clearance cases in final investigation proceedings in 2021 (the equivalent of Phase II proceedings in Turkey). All of these matters were also before the European Commission in Phase II proceedings and in two of them, the Turkish Competition Board resolved upon conditional clearance of the cases on the basis of the remedy packages that were presented to the Commission, with the rationale that the implementation of those remedies would also impact the competition concerns in Turkey.
In the acquisition of sole control over the hydraulics business of Eaton Corporation plc by Danfoss A/S (Decision No 21-25/313-144 dated 4 May 2021), the final investigation proceedings focused in particular on the markets for hydraulic steering components for off-road vehicles and orbit motors. The Turkish Competition Board issued a conditional clearance accepting the carve-out structural remedies presented to the Commission on the basis of evaluations regarding lesser entry barriers in Turkey in an imports-based market, the balancing nature of buyer power in the market, and the positive impact of the remedies on global competitive pressure.
The acquisition of Willis Towers Watson Public Limited Company by Aon plc was the other case cleared by the Turkish Competition Board in 2021 conditional upon the implementation of structural remedies presented by the transaction parties to the Commission (Decision No 21-35/503-246 dated 14 July 2021). The in-depth investigation of the Turkish Competition Board focused on the affected market of commercial non-life reassurance distribution, where the transaction would have resulted in the merger of two of three leading undertakings. In the end, the Board reached the assessment that the transfer of the global commercial non-life reassurance business of the target to a third party as committed before the Commission would also resolve the competitive concerns associated with the Turkish market.
The Turkish Competition Board also issued a conditional clearance in the acquisition by EssilorLuxottica SA of shares held ultimately by HAL Holding NV in GrandVision NV, this time on the basis of behavioural remedies presented by the parties specifically for the Turkish market (Decision No 21-30/395-199 dated 10 June 2021). The decision identified that EssilorLuxottica SA was in a dominant position in the wholesale market for ophthalmic lenses and brand sunglasses and had significant market power in other affected product markets, with the transaction parties horizontally overlapping in the retail sales market for optical products and vertically overlapping in the other product markets. The behavioural remedies targeted the findings of the Turkish Competition Board that the acquiring party would reach a market-leading vertical integration in Turkey after the transaction, along with a strong presence on the retail level, and included commitments regarding ensuring supply to customers other than the major local chain owned by the target.
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