Glossary of competition terms

This Glossary matches the list of keywords used by Concurrences search engine. Each keyword is automatically updated by the most recent EU and national case laws from the e-Competitions Bulletin and Concurrences Review. The definitions are excerpt from DG COMP’s Glossary of terms used in EU competition policy (© European Union, 2002) and the OECD’s Glossary of industrial organisation economics and competition law (© OECD, 1993).

Minority shareholdings

A minority shareholding exists when a shareholder holds less than 50% of the voting rights or equity rights in a target firm. In some instances a minority shareholder can exercise a degree of control over the target, either solely or jointly with other shareholders. In other cases, minority shareholdings represent purely passive investments. A minority shareholding can under some circumstances result in less output and higher prices. For example, if a firm owns equity in a competitor, the financial losses incurred by the competitor will affect the value of the firm’s investment. In this scenario, the firm may have less incentive to compete against the company it has invested in. It may also have an incentive to unilaterally reduce output and raise prices, if it is in a position to recoup all or part of the lost sales through its financial participation in the target. Structural links between competitors in the form of direct or reciprocal minority shareholdings may in certain circumstances facilitate express or tacit collusion; the minority shareholder is given access to information about the target, which facilitates collusion, or the monitoring of the target’s adherence to the commonly agreed conduct. As with unilateral effects, minority ownerships might change the payoffs for the companies involved, or their respective incentives to deviate from a collusive agreement or to engage in a pricing war to punish deviations from a collusive agreement. Investments in competing companies may also signal to the rest of the market that there is an intention to compete less vigorously. This may induce the whole industry to reduce competition and favour a collusive equilibrium to the detriment of consumers. © OECD

On this topic see the e-Competitions special issue "Minority shareholdings: An overview of EU and national case law"