Germany toughens M&A regulations

In future, companies worth more than $425m will be subject to antitrust regulations, with a particular view of protecting consumers when startups are purchased by corporates.

An amendment to Germany’s law on competition restrictions proposed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has been approved by the federal council, known as Bundesrat.

The amended law means the antitrust regulator, Bundeskartellamt, will in future have the power to investigate acquisitions worth €400m ($425m) or more.

The decision is particularly aimed at startups, which can be acquired for large sums of money despite not having any, or not very high, revenues – a fact that until now meant those deals circumvented antitrust regulations.

The Bundeskartellamt will be able to consider factors including the value of user data, networks and future business scaling when deciding whether to grant acquisitions.

Corporates will in future also be held responsible for antitrust breaches by the acquired startups and other subsidiaries. That change has been made to halt retroactive restructuring or assets shifts in order to avoid large fines.

Brigitte Zypries, federal minister for economic affairs and energy, said: "With this amendment, we are adapting the competition to the digital age.

“Data has become an expensive commodity and a power factor. It is often more significant than revenues, as the recent example of WhatsApp’s takeover by Facebook shows.

“To ensure the Bundeskartellamt is able to enforce fair competition in the digital world, we have modernised M&A regulations. In addition, we are ensuring firms will no longer be able to escape millions of dollars in fines due to retroactive restructuring or creative asset shifts.” [translated from German by Global Government Venturing]

See more from this Government Report: Germany

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