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Week Ahead (13 May)




 

 

Monday, 13 May – European Commission expected to decide on the DMA gatekeeper status of Booking, X and TikTok’s Ads 

Today, the European Commission is expected to issue its decisions on the gatekeeper status of Booking.com, X (formerly known as Twitter) and TikTok’s advertising business, TikTok Ads, under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). 

 

Last September, the European Commission confirmed its initial list of six tech companies qualifying as ‘’gatekeepers’’ under the DMA, namely Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Meta, ByteDance (TikTok), and Microsoft. Companies with an annual turnover exceeding €7.5 billion, a market capitalisation of over €75 billion, and active monthly users in the EU totalling 45 million fall under these rules. The European Commission has the power to investigate the actions of gatekeepers and fine them up to 10% of their global turnover from the preceding year if they are found to be in breach of the DMA.  

 

Although ByteDance was included in the Commission’s initial list, it challenged its designation at the General Court, the EU’s lower court, claiming that TikTok’s inclusion to the list could undermine the ‘’DMA's own stated goal by protecting actual gatekeepers from newer competitors like TikTok’’ and applied for interim measures. However, in February the Court ruled against the suspension of TikTok’s designation, arguing that it could not prove that it needed it urgently to prevent “serious and irreparable damage”. ByteDance pledged in March to appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, on 25 March, the Commission launched full-scale investigations into Apple, Google, and Meta’s compliance with the DMA, the first ones since the new rules entered into force. The Commission aims to finalise its conclusions for these five probes (involving two against Google, two against Apple, and one against Meta) within 12 months. 

 

On 1 March, the online travel platform Booking filed a notification of its potential gatekeeper status under the DMA, alongside ByteDance and X, becoming the latest entry in the list of gatekeepers and the first European platform likely to be regulated by the new rules. Should they be officially designated as gatekeepers, these entities will then have a six-month timeframe to adhere to the requirements of the DMA. 

W/C Monday, 13 May – Separatist parties set to lose power in Catalonia, following Spain’s Socialists win in regional elections 

Yesterday, Catalonia held regional elections, a vote deemed crucial for the stability of Spain’s national government and a test for the strength of the independence movement.  

 

In March, the president of Catalonia, Pere Aragones, called for snap elections after his 2024 budget proposal was rejected by the Catalan parliament, facing opposition from a broad political spectrum, including right-wing and left-wing parties. The rejection was fueled by accusations from local politicians that Aragones was too closely aligned with the Spanish government's interests.  

 

With 99% of the vote counted, the Socialist Party candidate Salvador Illa has won 42 seats in the 135-seat chamber, followed by separatist Junts with 35 seats, and ERC, President Aragone’s party, with 20 seats. Notably, the pro-independence parties, including Junts and ERC, secured a collective total of 61 seats, losing their majority for the first time since the independence push began in 2012. Although the Socialists in Catalonia are in a strong position following their electoral victory, they still require the cooperation of other parties to establish a government, which will most likely lead to a series of negotiations or even another election if a consensus cannot be reached. 

Junts’ exiled leader Carles Puigdemont, a former Catalonian President himself, ran under an amnesty promise from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Last year, Sanchez introduced a controversial amnesty bill for those involved in the illegal 2017 independence referendum, aiming to secure the support of the Catalan pro-independence parties in order to form a government. Nevertheless, the elections, dominated by economic and social concerns such as education, drought management, and infrastructure investment, signaled a shift in voter priorities away from strong separatist influence. Illa’s victory demonstrated the efficacy of Sanchez’s conciliatory strategy towards Catalonia. 

However, the situation remains complex. The Catalan regional election not only affects regional governance but also has implications for the country’s national stability. Despite the separatists losing their majority, Puigdemont called for the Socialists to allow him to govern Catalonia, possibly through a minority government. He equated the situation in Catalonia to that in the national parliament, where Sanchez depends on Puigdemont’s support. His remarks hinted at potential repercussions for Sanchez’s own national government if his demands are not met.  

 

W/C Monday, 13 May – DG Competition to meet Telecom Italia competitors to discuss impact of sale of Netco to KKR  

This week, the European Commission’s competition directorate (DG Comp) will meet with Telecom Italia’s (TIM) competitors to discuss how the sale of its landline network (Netco) to a consortium, lead by KKR, will impact their respective businesses.   

 

KKR’s offer of €22.5 billion, which also sees the Italian government retain strategic oversight over the network through a 20% stake, was approved by TIM’s board in November.  Since then, DG Comp has been in contact with TIM and KKR with preliminary questions before the deal was officially notified to DG COMP on 19 April.   

 

Since DG Comp announced changes to its review process of mergers in April 2023, seeking to simplify and expand the category of unproblematic mergers which can go through a “simplified” procedure, the numbers of deals being considered by DG Comp under this procedure has increased significantly.  KKR’s acquisition of Netco does not qualify for this procedure however and will instead be considered under the “normal procedure”.  DG Comp has until 30 May to decide whether to wave through the deal or to open an in-depth investigation.  

 

To that end, the view of TIM’s competitors this week will be instrumental.  On 22 April DG Comp sent the competitors a 49-page questionnaire and asked them to present any findings by 30 April – a tight turnaround. Broadly speaking, DG Comp wants more information from competitors regarding how the deal is likely to affect wholesale prices and network quality. It is particularly focused on an exclusivity clause contained in the deal under which TIM will buy certain services from Netco – DG Comp is keen to hear from TIM competitors regarding how this deal might be structured in terms of duration and the volume of discounts that can be offered.    

 

If, following this week’s meeting, DG Comp decides that a more thorough investigation is required, this should be completed by 90 working days following 30 May.  This should still enable the deal to be signed off by the 15 October deadline set by TIM.  The Italian government is likely to weigh in behind the scenes to try to ensure the deal will be approved as soon as possible.      

 

W/C Monday, 13 May – European Commission likely to announce decision on Masdar’s acquisition of a 50% stake in Terra-Gen 

This week, the European Commission is likely to announce its decision on whether to allow Masdar’s acquisition of a 50% stake in US renewable energy firm Terra-Gen from the US investment firm Energy Capital Partners (ECP). 

 

Masdar, a leading renewable energy firm based in Abu Dhabi, announced the deal in March, amounting to approximately €1 billion in cash and shares. The deal involves acquiring the shares from ECP though the financial details of the deal were not disclosed.  After the deal, the remaining 50% stake in Terra-Gen will continue to be held by Igneo Infrastructure Partners, which obtained its share in 2020. Founded in 2007, Terra-Gen has significantly grown since being acquired by ECP in 2015. Its portfolio now includes 2.4 GW of wind and solar power generation and 5.1 GWh of energy storage across 32 sites.  

 

The parties filed a notice of the proposed deal to the European Commission on 15 April. Although the Commission’s deadline for Phase 1 of the deal is 24 May, a decision is likely in the coming days. The completion of this transaction is anticipated by the end of 2024, pending regulatory approvals.  

 

W/C Monday, 13 May – European Commission likely to announce decision on LTIMindtree’s joint venture with Saudi Aramco subsidiary 

Also this week, the European Commission could greenlight a joint venture between LTIMindtree, an IT services provider based in Mumbai, with Global Digital Integrated Solutions Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. More specifically, LTIMindtree agreed to acquire a 51% controlling stake. 

  

The joint venture, which sees Global Digital holding a 49% share, involves an initial investment of $12.3 million. LTIMindtree and Global Digital have outlined a commitment to making the joint venture a regional hub for IT services, starting with Saudi Arabia and possibly expanding across the MENA region. To govern this new entity, a board of managers will be established, consisting of five members. LTIMindtree will have significant influence, including the right to appoint three of these board managers and make decisions on their tenure, while Global Digital will appoint the remaining two.  The parties involved filed a notice of the proposed sale to the Commission, pursuing a simplified procedure, on 10 April. 

 

Tuesday, 14 May – UK’s Digital Markets Competition and Consumer Bill returns to the House of Lords for further deliberation 

On Tuesday, the UK's Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill is scheduled for further deliberation and a vote in the House of Lords. On 30 April, the bill successfully passed through the House of Commons, overcoming opposition attempts to revert it to its original form. 

 

The bill, which is designed to regulate major tech platforms like Meta, Alphabet, and Amazon, grants legal powers to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) through its dedicated Digital Markets Unit (DMU), established over two years ago. It will apply to a select group of big tech companies identified with ‘’Strategic Market Status’’, a designation akin to the EU’s ‘’gatekeepers’’ under the DMA, giving the CMA the power to impose stricter rules. Violations could result in fines of up to 10% of global turnover for the designated companies. 

 

The new legislation faced resistance from amendments introduced in March in the House of Lords that aimed to undo government changes perceived as favourable to these large firms. Despite support from Labour and the SNP for the Lords' amendments, the government secured the votes with a substantial majority. Labour's Shadow Digital Minister, Chris Bryant, criticised the government for yielding to market pressures which led to a "watered down" version of the bill, particularly citing the changes related to the appeals process and regulatory duties. On the other hand, the Minister of State for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake defended the amendments, asserting that they maintained a balanced approach towards big tech regulation and safeguarded the powers of the CMA. 

 

If the government is defeated in this week’s vote, the bill will return to the House of Commons for reconsideration, potentially causing delays in its enactment. 

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