THE MANILA TIMES ROUNDTABLE

Competition body approves P1.9T in M&As, joint ventures

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THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has approved P1.9 trillion worth of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures since its establishment almost two years ago.

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This was revealed by PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan to editors and reporters of The Manila Times in a roundtable discussion, streamed live on Facebook, on Wednesday.

Philippine Competition Commission Chairman Arsenio Balisacan. PHOTO BY JOHN MICAH SEBASTIA

The anti-trust body, established in 2015, has a three-fold function, namely anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant market position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

Companies, local and foreign doing business in the country, who are planning to merge or acquire worth at least P1 billion in assets are required by law to seek the commission’s approval.

Among the approved transactions were that of SM Investments Corp., which bought a 61.2-percent stake in Philippines Urban Living Solutions, Inc., a developer of dormitory buildings, in March; and Japan Tobacco Inc.’s purchase of Mighty Tobacco in July.

The PCC has also approved the condominium joint venture of Federal Land Inc. and Japanese giants Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. and Nomura Real Estate Development Co. Ltd.

Balisacan, an economist and former socioeconomic planning secretary, said mergers not approved by PCC could be fined of up to P250 million, and company officials could be jailed for two to seven years.

Violators may also be cited for contempt for failure to comply with orders or for supplying misleading or false information.

“Prohibited merger or acquisition agreements are those that substantially prevent, restrict, or lessen competition,” Balisacan said.

The PCC, which is composed of a chairman and four commissioners, covers any person or entity engaged in any trade, industry and commerce in the country.

“Aside from mergers and acquisitions, we also [go]after cartels or monopolies,” said the former dean of the UP School of Economics.

The PCC is investigating, for instance, the garlic cartel, he said.

He declined to tackle last year’s acquisition by PLDT and Globe Telecom of San Miguel’s telecommunications assets, as the dispute over whether the P69-billion deal had been deemed approved under interim PCC rules remained pending in court.

He, however, underscored that mergers and acquisitions must be open, transparent, and non-discriminatory.

“Anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions refer to coming together of two or more firms, or the purchase of one firm by another firm, respectively, that substantially impedes competition in the market,” he reiterated.

Balisacan urged the public to file complaints before the PCC against anti-competitive practices or agreements.
These include price fixing, bid rigging, output limitation and market sharing, the PCC head said.

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