Bulgarian CPC Issues First Decisions Prohibiting Concentrations

Introduction

On 19 July 2018 the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) prohibited the following two concentrations:

  • the sale of the second largest media conglomerate in Bulgaria, Nova Broadcasting Group AD (owner of Nova TV), to PPF Bidco (owned by Czech businessman Petr Kellner); and
  • the sale of CEZ's assets in Bulgaria, which include its energy distribution business, trade business and some small renewable energy parks to a Bulgarian company, Inercom, which maintains three solar power stations in the country.

Both decisions concerned politically sensitive sectors (media and energy) and were widely criticised for lacking valid economic arguments. Further, in its decisions the CPC limited its legal arguments to several paragraphs and failed to clarify how acquiring non-competitors (or at least non-major competitors) could strengthen the resulting group's dominant position and thus impede competition.

In both prohibited concentrations, the horizontal and vertical market overlap was non-existent or almost non-existent. Further, both concentrations concerned acquisitions of large undertakings in Bulgaria (with market shares in certain relevant markets that were close to or exceeded 40%), while the acquirers' market shares were insignificant (up to 5%).

Nova TV

In the first prohibited concentration, the parties' activities overlapped only in the e-commerce market, where both the acquirer and the target held a market share of up to 5%. The Nova Broadcasting Group held a market share of approximately 40% in the TV distribution and TV advertising markets. However, the acquirer was inactive in these markets in Bulgaria and thus had no market share.

Despite the lack...

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