ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb. Source: ACCC
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  • A surge in merger and acquisition activity around the world has prompted Australia’s competition watchdog to push for stronger collaboration among international regulators
  • ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb says global transactions are becoming increasingly complex, and better communication between regulators could help speed up approvals
  • The comments come as part of Ms Cass-Gottlieb’s address to this week’s Pre-International Competition Network (ICN) forum in Berlin
  • She says international collaboration is particularly pertinent in the aftermath of the peak of COVID-induced lockdowns
  • Further, Ms Cass-Gottlieb says it is imperative COVID-19 does not cause global regulators to lower their merger and acquisition assessment standards

A surge in merger and acquisition activity around the world has prompted Australia’s competition watchdog to push for stronger collaboration among international regulators.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said at this week’s Pre-International Competition Network (ICN) forum in Berlin that global transactions were becoming increasingly complex in structure. This means competition issues around some transactions are more difficult to remedy.

Further, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said merging companies often received clearance from a regulator in one jurisdiction but then had to wait idly as the regulator of the other jurisdiction completed its own investigation.

As such, she said, greater cooperation between regulators in different countries could allow for more efficient investigations and speed up the merger and acquisition process.

“The ACCC sees collaboration with our international counterparts as a key component of our effectiveness as a regulator,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Each competition regulator will have their own individual approach to resolving issues in their local jurisdictions, but support between global partners only strengthens our ability to achieve a result that is satisfactory to all.”

She said this was particularly pertinent in the aftermath of the peak of COVID-induced lockdowns when regulators weight short-term benefits to help businesses remain viable against potential long-term competition concerns.

In Australia, the ACCC has been able to limit and control the impact of short-term collaboration between businesses through its authorisation powers.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said it was imperative, however, that COVID-19 did not cause global regulators to lower their merger and acquisition assessment standards.

“Our merger assessments remain rightly focused on the long-term consequences of a merger and will not allow short-term market features, including those produced by the pandemic, to outweigh these considerations,” she said.

“A competitive economy is critical to our collective future, so as much as possible, we need to ensure any changes to the competitive landscape are temporary and limited to what is necessary.”

The ICN was formed in 2001 to help international law enforcement authorities work together to address competition enforcement and policy issues. The organisation currently has over 120 member agencies.

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