OTCC to step up scrutiny of M&As

OTCC to step up scrutiny of M&As

E-commerce sector to be monitored

Mr Sakon said the commission wants to prevent new monopolies from forming due to Covid-19.
Mr Sakon said the commission wants to prevent new monopolies from forming due to Covid-19.

The Office of Trade Competition Commission (OTCC) will step up inspections of business mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and closely watch the e-commerce sector this year to ensure fair trade, since Covid-19 may change market structure with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) disappearing.

OTCC chairman, Sakon Varunyuwatana, said the commission wants to prevent monopolies as it seems only large companies will survive while many SMEs, with a limited budget, may succumb to the pandemic.

M&As, especially in the automotive, logistics and food sectors, are believed to be on the increase.

OTCC does not want to see businesses change hands to a few giant companies or see any action that goes against the competition trade law.

The agency will also keep a close watch on online business platforms, which are swelling in numbers and may cause an impact on SMEs who are running businesses offline.

According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, e-commerce was valued at 4 trillion baht in 2019, up 4% from 2018. This represented one-fourth of Thai GDP, worth around 15-16 trillion baht.

"We expect to see more complaints from business operators between this year and next year because of business risks," said Mr Sakon.

"The Covid-19 crisis will be a catalyst of change in how businesses are run and consumers' lifestyles."

Since the establishment of OTCC, the commission has received 68 complaints over the past six years, including six cases of alleged market dominance and four collusion accusations.

In 2021-2022, OTCC will also monitor auctions of state infrastructure projects because in the post-pandemic period, officials may issue special conditions that might reduce competition among bidders.

In another development, the OTCC plans to ask the Administrative Court to extend a deadline requiring it to submit a clarification over its decision to approve the controversial merger of CP Retail Development Co and Tesco Stores (Thailand) Ltd.

The court wanted a written statement this week but OTCC said it will be ready to submit a complete document on May 15.

Led by the Foundation for Consumers, the network of 37 consumer advocacy groups filed the petition on March 14, urging the court to issue an injunction to prevent possible negative impacts on consumers.

In November last year, OTCC approved the CP-Tesco deal but imposed certain conditions, including a three-year ban on acquisitions in the same sector in a bid to cushion any impacts the transaction may cause.

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