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Brussels, 30 November 2012
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Belgian ground handling service provider Aviapartner by LBO France
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Aviapartner of Belgium by WFS of France, ultimately controlled by funds managed by LBO France. Aviapartner and WFS both provide ground handling and other freight related services. The Commission's investigation showed that the merged entity would continue to face strong competition from ground handlers in all affected markets, that barriers to entry were generally rather low, thus allowing for possible new entrants, and that customers wielded significant buyer power.
The parties' activities do not overlap for the provision of ramp, passenger and baggage handling services. The Commission's competitive assessment therefore focused on the provision of landside cargo handling, where the parties' activities overlap at five airports, Amsterdam-Schiphol, Basel-Mulhouse, Brussels National, Frankfurt/Main and Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. However, with the exception of Brussels National and Frankfurt/Main, the increments in market shares are very limited. In addition, as regards Frankfurt/Main, the combined market share of the parties would still be limited. For Brussels National, the Commission's investigation revealed that competition from other ground handlers, such as Swissport/Flightcare, would sufficiently restrain the merged entity. In addition, no substantial barriers to entry were found and new warehousing space will soon be built.
The Commission found no competition concerns for the provision of offline cargo handling services, because of the merged entity's limited combined market share. In the provision of truck freight forwarding services, the parties' activities are limited so that there are no affected markets.
The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns.
The transaction was notified to the Commission on 24 October 2012.
The Commission examined the competitive effects of the proposed acquisition in the markets for the provision of ramp, passenger and baggage handling services, landside cargo handling services, offline cargo handling services and freight forwarding by truck.
The Commission also examined whether the proposed acquisition would lead to conglomerate effects because the merged entity would be able to provide both, ramp, passenger and cargo handling services as well as landside cargo handling services at many airports. However, there is no risk of adverse effects on competition, because the market investigation indicated that customers continue to contract these services separately and will continue to have enough options to switch to other suppliers.
Companies and products
LBO France Gestion SAS manages investment funds without sector specific specialisation and is active globally, with a focus on the European Economic Area (EEA).
WFS Global Holding SAS is active in the provision of ground handling and other freight related services in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Aviapartner Holding NV provides ground handling and other freight related services in Europe.
Merger control rules and procedures
The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.
The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has a total of 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).
More information on the case is available at: