Dec 12, 2019 - Technology

Anti-trust uncertainty is the new normal for dealmakers

EU Commissioner of Competition Margrethe Vestager

EU Commissioner of Competition Margrethe Vestager. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Governments around the world are taking a much closer look at proposed mergers, often on antitrust grounds, with bankers telling Axios that they've changed their approach with clients.

The big picture: "We used to look for reasons that a regulator might object to a deal," said a senior deal-maker at a large Wall Street bank. "Now we look at it from the opposite direction: We assume there will be objections, and then look for reasons why it won't get held up."

Some headlines from just the past week:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Google's $2.1 billion purchase of fitness-tracking company FitBit.
  • Australian antitrust regulators are taking a harder look at Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $16 billion sale of Carlton & United Breweries to Japan's Asahi, over concerns about competition within the country's cider and beer markets.
  • British antitrust regulators have "serious competition concerns" over Amazon's decision to lead a $575 million investment in Deliveroo. This one is particularly notable because Amazon would only hold a minority stake.
  • Canadian transportation regulators are holding up Onex's C$3.5 billion deal for WestJet, over ownership rules.

The bottom line: Regulatory uncertainty is the new normal.

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