One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 crisis is the risk that many firms will find themselves in financial distress and forced to exit the market or merge. This note focuses on competition issues relating to merger control. It serves as background material and raises issues for discussion for a webinar meeting with competition authorities on 26 May 2020. This note is part of a series of responses prepared by the OECD Competition Division that can help guide the actions of governments and competition authorities as they react to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In times of acute crisis, such as the one provoked by COVID-19, competition authorities face a number of challenges relating to their review of mergers. These include: how to conduct a competitive assessment of mergers in times of significant and rapid change in market circumstances; how to implement remedies in such a severe crisis; how to evaluate the failing firm defence; and how to manage increased derogation requests for jurisdictions that have standstill obligations. Challenges may also arise in relation to the eventual increased use of public interest considerations by governments to promote or undertake mergers. This note analyses all these challenges with examples from previous crises or applicable scenarios and presents open issues that require further research and discussion in the months and years to come.