Norton Rose secures clearance from Competition Commission for Stena Irish Sea acquisition

29 June 2011

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The UK Competition Commission today cleared Stena Line's acquisition of two Irish Sea ferry routes from DFDS. International legal practice Norton Rose LLP advised Stena on the merger control review of this transaction, which moved to a full "phase 2" investigation by the Competition Commission in February after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that there was a realistic prospect of the transaction harming competition for ferry services on the Irish Sea.

The Competition Commission's final decision states that it sees no likelihood of the transaction leading to a substantial lessening of competition. In particular, and contrary to the OFT finding, the Competition Commission decided that Stena's Fleetwood/Larne route - which competed with the acquired routes, and the closure of which was announced at the same time as the acquisition - would have closed in any event and therefore should not be taken into account in the competitive assessment.

The Commission also concluded that, although there are existing Stena services to the north and south of the acquired routes, the merger does not have a significant impact on competition as Stena continues to face direct competition on each service it operates.

Martin Coleman, partner and Head of Antitrust, Competition, and Regulatory, said:

"The competition authorities are understandably sceptical about arguments that a competing business of the purchaser would have closed regardless of the merger but in this case the factual and economic evidence pointed clearly to such a conclusion.  We are pleased to have been able to assist Stena in achieving an outcome that will enable it to develop its business on the Irish Sea to the benefit of Stena and its customers."

The Norton Rose LLP team comprised Martin Coleman (partner), Ian Giles (senior associate), Mark Daniels (associate), and Jacqui Williams (associate).  The initial transaction had completed on 1 December 2010, with Mauro Mattiuzzo (partner) advising on the corporate aspects.

For further information please contact:

Gavin Collins, PR manager, Norton Rose LLP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7444 2466; Mobile: +44 (0)77 7065 0113
gavin.collins@nortonrose.com