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Merger and acquisition deals hit P909 billion in 2020

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) reviewed P909 billion in 26 mergers and acquisitions transactions last year, approving 20.

The commission reviewed the most transactions from the electricity and gas sector, followed by transportation and storage, PCC said in a report on Tuesday. The agency also processed transactions from the manufacturing, finance and insurance segment, as well as the real estate sector.

Among the applications, one was withdrawn, two were returned, and three are still being processed.

In comparison, PCC reviewed P758 billion in 44 transactions in 2019.

Required notifications and reviews for business mergers and acquisitions with transaction values below P50 billion has been temporarily suspended since September.

The Bayanihan To Recover As One Act, known as Bayanihan II, exempted parties in these transactions from being required to notify the competition regulation body within two years from the effectivity of the law.

PCC review of these transactions, conducted on its own initiative or motu proprio, is also suspended for a year. The exempted transactions may be reviewed after a year if they are seen as likely to substantially lessen competition.

“With fewer merger notifications expected and motu proprio review effectively suspended, our Mergers and Acquisitions Office refocused its resources on capacity building and market monitoring to gear up for the return of motu proprio review powers in September 2021,” the commission said.

“We also continued to encourage firms to voluntarily notify the Commission of their M&A transactions to avoid the possible unwinding of these transactions, should these be found anti-competitive after motu proprio review.”

PCC also said that there is a higher risk of anti-competitive behavior from firms experiencing smaller margins during the recession. The commission since the start of the lockdown has been warning about potential collusion among firms to exploit the crisis to raise prices.

PCC started 13 investigations after it received 162 queries and complaints in its channel for pandemic-related concerns.

“These particularly concerned water utilities, internet services, retail associations, and poultry,” the commission said. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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