Antitrust regulators around the world stepped up their scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions last year, with both the volume and value of deals that were prohibited or abandoned increasing significantly, according to a new report.
Allen & Overy, a London-based law firm with a global antitrust practice, said the value of transactions that were frustrated by regulators soared to 130 billion euros ($162.9 billion) from 69 billion euros ($86.5 billion) in 2016.
Thirty-eight transactions were frustrated due to antitrust concerns, up from 31 the previous year, with the number of formal prohibitions nearly tripling to 22 from eight.
The value of deals frustrated by antitrust represented only about 5% of total global M&A activity but that was more than double the 2% of deals in both 2015 and 2016.
“Antitrust authorities faced pressure from politicians and parts of academia to take a tough stance on consolidation, in particular in deals involving large conglomerates,” Allen & Overy said. “We saw the European Commission in particular responding to these demands.”
Four of the prohibited and three of the abandoned deals last year were in the United States, where, according to the report, “federal antitrust authorities have continued their trend of challenging mergers in the courts” rather than settling them with remedies.
However, the report noted, “the delay in appointing the new heads of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission means that it is too early to determine the impact of the Trump administration on merger control policy and enforcement.”
Allen & Overy also found that at least 155 deals, including 23 in the U.S., were only cleared in 2017 after the parties and authorities agreed on conditions designed to address antitrust concerns and that regulators imposed fines of 164.4 million euros ($206 million) on merging parties for violating procedural rules — an increase of 36% over the previous year.
“We expect this trend of strict enforcement by antitrust authorities to continue, and for more large fines to be imposed,” the law firm said.
The report analyzed the application of merger control rules by the antitrust authorities in 26 jurisdictions.