Home Knowledge Authority clears Stena’s acquisition of two DFDS shipping routes

Authority clears Stena’s acquisition of two DFDS shipping routes

In April 2011, the Competition Authority cleared Stena’s acquisition of the assets related to the passenger and freight ferry services operated by DFDS on two Irish Sea routes to/from the north-west of England and Belfast.
Stena operates ferry services on four Irish Sea routes including between Belfast and Stranraer and between Dublin and Holyhead. Until December 2010, it also operated ferry services between Larne (N. Ireland) and Fleetwood. DFDS’s presence on the Irish Sea arose from its 2010 acquisition of the Norfolkline ferry business from Maersk. In addition to the two target routes, DFDS also operated ferry services between Dublin and Heysham and between Dublin and Liverpool, but it withdrew from these latter two routes in January 2011.
On concluding its Phase I review, the Authority was unable to conclude that the acquisition did not give rise to a substantial lessening of competition and thus opened a Phase II investigation.
Focusing on the acquisition’s competitive effects in the Republic of Ireland, the Authority found that, irrespective of Stena’s closure of its Larne-Fleetwood route, the transaction would have a minimal impact since the vast majority of both freight and passenger traffic on the two target routes was destined for Northern Ireland. The Authority also found that DFDS’s decision to withdraw from two Dublin routes was not connected to the Stena transaction. However, even if there had been such a connection, it would not give rise to competition concerns given the lack of coordinated effects and the post-transaction decisions of other operators to increase capacity on the Irish Sea to and from Dublin.
Although it has been cleared by the Authority, the transaction has been referred to the UK Competition Commission, whose decision is expected later this summer.

William Fry acted for DFDS regarding the Irish merger control aspects of this transaction.