The Competition Council takes stock of the year 2022

The Competition Council takes stock of the year 2022

The total number of decisions authorizing economic concentrations issued by the Competition Council increased from 43 in 2019 to 135 in 2022, an increase of 214%, according to the annual report of the said council.

Within this development, takeovers continue to be positioned as the most frequent form of concentration, their number having increased from 43 operations in 2020 to 120 in 2022, notes the Board in this report, specifying that takeovers of exclusive control are the most dominant with a share of more than 70% of total authorized mergers, with the exception of 2021 when this share represented only 54%.

And to continue: “It follows that at the origin of concentration projects, more prevalent objectives aimed at exercising a decisive influence on the economic activity of the target companies, in particular in terms of strategic decisions”.

To this end, the Conseil de la concurrence points out that economic concentrations arising from the sector of other service activities, such as online advertising intermediation services and traveler services, have increased significantly from 2 operations in 2019 to 35 in 2022. , which enabled them to monopolize more than 23% of operations authorized in 2022 and to position themselves at the head of the sectors where these concentrations take place.

As for the share of economic concentrations emanating from manufacturing industries, it tends to decline from 39% in 2020 to only 20% in 2022, says the report, adding that the same is true for the health sector. human and social action whose share of economic concentrations fell to 4% in 2022 after reaching 12% in 2020.

The developments also show the growing interest of business combinations in the digital marketing market in Morocco and the various related businesses.

Furthermore, the Competition Council indicates that the analysis of the turnover thresholds of the authorized operations reveals that the dynamics of concentrations in Morocco are still driven mainly by contracts whose parties achieve turnovers that exceed the threshold. national threshold of 250 million dirhams (MDH) and the international threshold of 750 MDH.

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However, there is an increase in the share of transactions whose turnover of the parties exceeds the national threshold, while remaining below the international threshold, which confirms the trend already noted in the 2021 annual report of the Council of competition showing the interest of business groups in the advantages provided by the internal market.

The Council also underlines that the dynamic of economic concentrations remains driven by transactions between foreigners, their share having certainly decreased in 2022, but is still around 50% of total authorized concentrations.

In addition, mixed operations associating a Moroccan part with foreigners increased significantly in 2022 with an estimated share of 30%, after having gradually declined between 2019 and 2021.

At the same time, the Council points out that the interpretation of the dynamics of economic concentrations cannot be done without taking into account the main characteristics of their evolution in the world in the light of the economic and geopolitical crises that have prevailed since 2020.

Indeed, at the end of the pandemic crisis, the movement of concentrations has amplified at the international level under the impetus of the global reorganization of value chains.

However, during the year 2022 this rebound was broken and the volume of economic concentrations was impacted by the reduced availability of capital, the increase in financing costs and the uncertainties around the evolution of the world economy, in particular the outlook for economic growth, inflation and interest rates.

In addition, the context of economic and geopolitical crisis has greatly contributed to the strengthening of the ebb of globalization which has been confirmed through the decline in cross-border movements of capital, the slowdown in the participation of firms in global value chains , the decline in the international activities of banks and also the rise of barriers erected in front of capital wishing to acquire national companies, in particular those oriented towards future industrial activities such as the manufacture of semiconductors and batteries.

Generally resulting from the growth strategies of large companies around the world, economic concentrations are increasingly bringing to the fore the energy transition sectors, in particular electricity and renewable energies, at the center of their dynamics.

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In addition, the Competition Council issued 177 decisions and 4 opinions in 2022 in the context of market regulation, according to the annual report of the said council.

This report covers the various fields of competence of the Council, as provided for by article 166 of the Constitution, the provisions of law n°104-12 relating to freedom of prices and competition and law n°20- 13 relating to the Competition Council, as they have been amended and supplemented, as well as by the texts taken for their application, indicates this report.

In terms of decision-making, the preventive control of economic concentrations represented, in volume, most of the deliberative activity of the Competition Council with a total of 142 decisions rendered, i.e. more than 78% of all decisions and opinions given in 2022, specifies the same source.

The rest is made up of decisions rendered in terms of anti-competitive practices, accounting for 19% of the total, as well as advisory activity (2%), says the report, adding that overall this distribution corresponds to what is of use in the competition authorities at the comparative level.

In terms of litigation, the year 2022 was exceptional for the Competition Council, because for the first time since its creation, the Council activated its sanctioning power provided for by the aforementioned law n°104-12.

It issued 31 decisions, imposing penalties for a total amount of 72.064 million dirhams (MDH) in response to anti-competitive practices identified during the investigation of a complaint addressed to the Competition Council , failures to notify economic concentration operations, examined within the framework of 3 automatic referrals and failures to notify economic concentration operations, examined within the framework of 27 regularization requests.

In addition, the Council recalls the opening of a procedure for the regularization of economic concentration operations carried out between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2021, without prior notification to the Competition Council.

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With regard to the opinions given by the Council within the framework of its advisory mission, 1 opinion was given in response to a request for an opinion from the Head of Government and 3 were initiated by the Council on the basis of referrals from office.

Analysis of the flow of cases processed by the Competition Council in 2022 revealed the addition of 213 new cases to the remainder inherited from previous years, while 184 cases were closed

Also, this analysis revealed 2 referrals inherited from 2020 and 13 files from 2021, 9 of which relate to requests for authorization of economic concentrations.

In terms of liquidation of the stock of economic concentration files, the balance sheet at the end of 2022 shows a liquidation ratio of 84%.

However, as of the end of December 2022, there are still 28 merger clearance applications pending, including one transaction referred for further review.

According to the report, the investigation services, in accordance with the provisions of article 16 of law no. 20-13 relating to the Competition Council and articles 18, 19 and 20 of the decree implementing the n°104-12, carried out several investigative acts, including in particular hearings, requests for information and market tests.

Thus, to examine the applications for authorization of notified economic concentration operations and assess their possible effects on the competitive positioning of the parties and the competitive structure of the relevant markets defined, these investigation services held more than 280 hearings during which , in addition to the representatives of the notifying and concerned parties, the representatives of the ministerial departments overseeing the sectors responsible for the markets concerned and the organizations in charge of their regulation were heard, as well as the various private stakeholders in the sectors and sectors concerned, indicates the Competition Council.

And to note that since the declaration of the state of health emergency, the majority of the hearings organized by the Direction of the instructions were held by videoconference.

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