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On 27 April 2021 the German government adopted the 17th amendment (“Amendment”) to the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (“AWV”) aligning the German Foreign Direct Investments (“FDI”) regime with the EU Screening Regulation. The Amendment significantly extends the number of sectors and target activities that require mandatory notification in Germany and brings significant procedural changes and clarifications. The revised Ordinance entered into force on 1 May 2021 and will apply to all transactions signed thereafter.

The Amendment follows a series of prior legislative changes. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the German government previously adopted the 15th AWV-Amendment in June 2020, which introduced far reaching filing obligations in the healthcare sector. Subsequently, the first amendment of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act introduced standstill obligations backed by fines and criminal charges in July 2020. Together with the 16th AWV-Amendment in October 2020 the German FDI regime was also aligned with the requirements of the EU Screening Regulation.

Our blog provides an overview of the German FDI regime and highlights the key changes introduced by the Amendment.
Continue Reading Technology Sector under Closer Scrutiny – German Government Significantly Extends the Scope of Foreign Direct Investment Review in Germany

On 22 January 2021 the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (“BMWi”) published a draft for the 17th amendment (“Draft Amendment”) of the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (“AWV”). While the Draft Amendment remains subject to comments and further consultation, it already provides early guidance on sectors that may come under close Foreign Direct Investments (“FDI”) scrutiny in future. Among other changes, the Draft Amendment defines a number of additional sensitive activities triggering mandatory and suspensive filing requirements.

The new rules can be expected to have significant impact on transactions in particular in the technology sector and will lead to a significant increase in mandatory FDI filings in Germany.
Continue Reading Significant Revamp of German FDI Regime – German Government Presents New Rules on FDI Screening

On 19 January 2021, the 10th amendment of the German Act against Restraints of Competition (“ARC”), the so-called ARC Digitisation Act (the “ARC-DA”) entered into force. The ARC-DA brings far-reaching amendments to German competition law, containing inter alia

  • the introduction of a new framework to intervene in the digital sector and a revision of the rules on abuse of dominance including enhanced rules for access to data;
  • significant increases of merger control notification thresholds applicable across industries; and
  • a number of further substantial amendments including a codification of the FCO’s leniency program, the implementation of the European Commission’s ECN+ Directive introducing new powers of the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) in the context of inspections, and changes concerning cartel damage claims.

In this blog-post we focus on three core developments: (i) novel powers for intervention in digital markets, (ii) the additional basis for data access claims and (iii) the core amendments to the merger control regime.
Continue Reading Germany: The wind of change – Substantial competition law amendments

On 2 December 2020, the German government prohibited the acquisition of German company IMST GmbH, Kamp-Lintfort (“IMST”) by a Chinese investor. This is the second high profile prohibition decision issued by the German government this year on the grounds of Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) rules. Read in conjunction with the upcoming legislative tightening of the existing Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, the German FDI law), expected to come into force during Q1 / 2021, and other measures like the ‘golden share’ taken in Curevac (a company heavily invested in Covid-19 research), the IMST decision demonstrates the mounting willingness by Germany to step in and protect what it perceives to be its national interests.
Continue Reading Foreign Direct Investment – German Government Prohibits Acquisition By A Chinese Buyer

On October 11, 2020, the EU FDI Screening Regulation (EU) 2019/452 – the “Regulation”) entered fully into force.

The Regulation, which was approved and adopted in March 2019, establishes a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments (“FDI”) by EU Member States in which decision-making powers rest at the Member State level. Significantly, from October 11, an element of EU-level cooperation in FDI is introduced and in particular will bring into effect (i) regular information sharing among Member States and the European Commission about transactions subject to national FDI screening, and (ii) a mechanism through which other Member States and the European Commission can coordinate and comment on FDI that has an “EU-dimension”.

In this blogpost, we look at the overall status of national measures in FDI at this juncture and describe in overview the EU-level cooperation and information sharing mechanisms.
Continue Reading New era of FDI in the European Union – EU FDI Regulation now in full force and effect

On 17 June 2020 the European Commission (“Commission”) published a White Paper on new enforcement powers regarding foreign subsidies. This initiative pursues two objectives, first it sets out a general policy approach for foreign subsidies, and second, it provides a number of proposals to address a perceived regulatory gap. More specifically, the White Paper suggests new tools to manage what the Commission regards as unfair competition and other distortions of competition within the internal market caused by foreign subsidies.

The White Paper proposes these new review powers of the Commission and/or other competent authorities in addition to already existing tools such as antitrust and merger control, State aid and FDI screening. As such, the Commission outlines a complementary toolbox aimed to facilitate transparency regarding foreign subsidies and maintain a level playing field within the EU internal market.
Continue Reading European Commission publishes White Paper on the Review of Foreign Subsidies – [New/More] Intervention Powers ahead?

The FDI space in Europe remains dynamic. Less than five months from the entering into force of the EU FDI Regulation, and just two months since the European Commission asked the Member States to both strengthen and “vigorously” implement the tools available to them and, where appropriate, introduce new FDI screening mechanisms –on which we reported in our previous alert –the past week manifested a number of legislative activities across Europe.

In this blog, we consider the changes proposed or made to laws in Germany, Hungary, Poland and Austria. Overall, we observe a further tightening of the legislative field, lowering the intervention thresholds / filing requirements, while increasing the sectors covered.

Besides the jurisdictions covered in the following, a new FDI law was also proposed in the Czech Republic in April and will be discussed and debated in the Czech Parliament in the coming weeks – watch this space for further updates.
Continue Reading Regulation of Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) gathers Pace across Europe – A Week of Change.

The European Commission has added to its call to Member States to act on foreign direct investment (“FDI”) by announcing that it is ready to support EU-level cooperation on FDI now. Spurred on by the COVID-19 crisis and the perceived vulnerability of key EU assets, the informal cooperation announced by the Commission will bring into effect early certain elements of the EU-level screening mechanism under the EU FDI Regulation that would otherwise have come into force in October 2020.

We consider what this announcement means and share some additional insights into the current approach of the Commission and Directorate-General Trade (“DG Trade”) to the subject of FDI based on a recent forum including senior officials.
Continue Reading European Commission Goes “Live” on FDI Coordination Six Months Early, Proposing Cooperation on an Informal and Voluntary Basis

On 27 April 2020 the Federal Cartel Office in Germany (“FCO”) cleared the acquisition of Vossloh Locomotives GmbH (“Vossloh Locomotives”) by Chinese manufacturer CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotives Co. Ltd. (“CRRC”). FCO President Andreas Mundt stated that the in-depth investigation found that initial concerns were not serious enough to justify prohibiting the transaction.

The FCO released a press report and a case summary (exclusively available in German) one week before expiry of the review period. The detailed clearance decision will be published at a later stage.

By acquiring Vossloh, CRRC takes over a key manufacturer of shunters in Europe. The FCO determined that Vossloh Locomotives is the leader for the manufacture of diesel-powered locomotive shunters with a share between 40-50% in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. The FCO found that this area constituted a relevant geographic market. CRRC is the world’s largest manufacturer of rolling stock, albeit with only limited activities in Europe.

The decision should be read in the context of the interplay between merger control and Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) screening. It contains significant and novel decisional guidance on the competitive assessment under German merger control law of acquisitions by State-owned companies originating from centrally planned economies. It also clarifies that a merger control analysis only covers some of the concerns raised by acquisitions by state-owned companies.
Continue Reading German Competition Authority Provides Guidance on the Interplay of Merger Control and FDI Screening

With a remarkable statement in an interview with the Financial Times published on 12 April 2020, the Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager in charge of Competition was cited to have declared that the Commission has “no issues” with EU Member States buying shares in companies to prevent takeovers by foreign acquirers, in particular by State-backed enterprises.

Coming at a time of increased attention to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limitations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this takes up discussions about “Golden Shares”, a mechanism allowing a Member State to veto certain “critical” decisions such as takeovers on the basis of a minority shareholding in a company, and adds a new dimension to the discussion that has been raging across Europe, covering FDI, but also State aid and the principle of free movement of capital.
Continue Reading “No Issues” with Member State Participations – State-backed EU Companies as the New Normal?