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

Companies that benefit from non-EU state support or subsidies will soon face heightened scrutiny in the European Union (EU) as the European Commission unveiled on May 5 its proposed Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market.  As its name suggests, the proposed Regulation will create a new tool to address what the European Commission sees as a “regulatory gap” in avoiding potential distortions caused by companies receiving non-EU subsidies and ensuring a “level playing field” in the EU.  Perhaps emblematic of its perceived importance at a time where calls from Member States to tackle potential distortive foreign investment have multiplied, it took the European Commission less than a year from the publication of the White Paper on levelling the playing field with respect to foreign subsidies to analyze the results of its public consultation and to put this proposal to the EU legislator.

The proposed Foreign Subsidies Regulation is wide-ranging and will apply in addition to the existing merger control and Foreign Direct Investment screening mechanisms.  Given the strong support it has received from most Member States and European industry bodies, it is widely anticipated that this new tool will be written into law without material change.

Here is what foreign companies that receive any form of non-EU public support and are active or considering deals involving the EU need to know, and prepare for.
Continue Reading More scrutiny to come in the EU for companies that receive non-EU subsidies

On Wednesday 28 April, the UK Parliament adopted the National Security & Investment Law (“NS&I Law”).  The law received Royal Assent the following day and will come into legal effect in late 2021.

The NS&I Law will introduce mandatory notification and pre-clearance requirements for transactions in 17 ‘core’ sectors.  This long-awaited piece of legislation, has passed through Parliament substantially un-amended, except that the investment threshold for mandatory notification has been raised from the acquisition of a 15 per cent. to 25 per cent. interest in shares or voting rights in an acquisition target. The UK Government retains extensive discretion to “call-in” investments for review, both within and outside the 17 ‘core’ sectors, including (i) acquisitions of control of assets and (ii) equity investments below the 25% threshold where “material influence” is acquired, if it reasonably suspects that a transaction gives rise to national security risks.
Continue Reading UK National Security & Investment Law is Approved by Parliament

On 16 February, John Penrose MP published his long-awaited report into the UK’s competition regime.  Penrose was tasked by the UK Government with reviewing how the UK’s competition regime can:

  1. Play a central role in meeting the challenges of the post COVID-19 economy and in driving recovery.  The Government’s Policy Paper stated that “the pandemic is the biggest threat the UK has faced in decades and overcoming it will require all the dynamism and creativity that exists across all sectors and in all regions and nations of the UK“;
  2. Contribute to the Government’s aim of levelling up across all nations and regions of the UK;
  3. Increase consumer trust, including by meeting the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto commitment to tackle bad business practices, and ensure the competition regime is strong, swift, flexible and proportionate;
  4. Support UK disruptors taking risks on new ideas and challenging incumbents; and
  5. Make best use of data, technology and digital skills which are vital to the modern economy.


Continue Reading Proposals published for radical overhaul of UK competition regime following Brexit

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced on February 4, 2021, that it is temporarily suspending the discretionary practice of granting “early termination” of the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act waiting period, with support from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The Agencies cited “the unprecedented volume of HSR filings” and “challenging transition period” as the reasons for suspending grants of early termination.
Continue Reading Early Termination of HSR Waiting Periods Temporarily Suspended

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act, which will take effect on March 4, 2021. Earlier, the FTC also announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. Each of these thresholds is lower for 2021, than for 2020. This is only the second time the HSR Act thresholds, which—like the Section 8 thresholds—are indexed to gross national product, have fallen since annual adjustments began in 2005. In contrast, the maximum daily civil penalty for violations of the HSR Act, which is tied to inflation, has increased.
Continue Reading FTC Announces New Lower HSR Filing and Interlocking Directorate Thresholds, Higher Civil Penalties

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 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

Introduction

On 25 May 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) has published its Final Report of the support studies for the evaluation of its Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (“VBER”) and the accompanying Guidelines on Vertical Restraints (the “Final Report”). The Final Report was published following a public consultation from 4 February to 27 May 2019 to gather views on the VBER’s functioning in the digital age. This was inspired by the growing importance of e-commerce and the interest in various online companies. This evolution has affected distribution and pricing strategies for both manufacturers and retailers, which the Commission decided warranted an evaluation of some of the current rules.
Continue Reading The revision of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation – What is likely to change?

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?