Case No COMP/M.5721 Otto/Primondo Assets. REGULATION (EC) No 139/2004 MERGER PROCEDURE. Article 7 (3) Date:

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1 Case No COMP/M.5721 Otto/Primondo Assets Only the English text is available and authentic. REGULATION (EC) No 139/2004 MERGER PROCEDURE Article 7 (3) Date:

2 EUROPEAN COMMISSION Brussels, C(2009) In the published version of this decision, some information has been omitted pursuant to Article 17(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004 concerning non-disclosure of business secrets and other confidential information. The omissions are shown thus [ ]. Where possible the information omitted has been replaced by ranges of figures or a general description. PUBLIC VERSION MERGER PROCEDURE ARTICLE 7(3) DECISION To the notifying party: Dear Sir/Madam, Subject: Case No COMP/M Otto/ Primondo assets Request for a derogation pursuant to Article 7(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No 139/ We refer to your application of 21 December 2009 for a derogation from the suspension obligation provided for in Article 7(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004 ("the Merger Regulation") with regard to the proposed acquisition by Otto Finance Cyprus Limited ("OFC") and BIC Retail Enterprises Ltd. ("BIC") of sole control over SAO Mail Order Service, Moscow ("Quelle Russia") submitted pursuant to Article 7(3) of the Merger Regulation. I. INTRODUCTION 2. The proposed acquisition of Quelle Russia is one of two transactions that were agreed upon between undertakings of the Otto Group and undertakings of the Primondo Group on 4 November The first transaction ("Transaction 1") is the intended acquisition by Otto GmbH & Co. KG ("Otto") and its subsidiaries PROVISTA Siebenhundertdreiundsiebzigste Verwaltungsgesellschaft ("PROVISTA"), OFC and BIC of trademarks and trademark applications, patents, domain names, copyrights, and client data from various companies of the Primondo Group, i.e. Primondo GmbH i.l. (in liquidation) ("Primondo"), Quelle GmbH i.l. ("Quelle Germany"), Quelle.Contact Holding GmbH i.l. and SB-Großhandels GmbH C+C Großhandel Objektausstattung i.l. Insolvency proceedings on these assets were initiated in Germany on 1 September Commission européenne, B-1049 Bruxelles / Europese Commissie, B-1049 Brussel - Belgium. Telephone: (32-2)

3 4. As regards the second transaction ("Transaction 2"), Otto's subsidiaries OFC and BIC intend to acquire all shares in Quelle Russia. These shares are currently held by Quelle International Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Primondo. 5. Transaction 1 and Transaction 2 are governed by the same purchase agreement but are not linked to each other by condition. However, they are carried out between the same persons/undertakings within a two year time frame and therefore constitute one concentration in the sense of Article 5 (2) subparagraph 2 of the Merger Regulation. The concentration has been notified on 18 December The application of 21 December 2009 for a derogation from the suspension obligation pursuant to Article 7(3) of the Merger Regulation solely relates to Transaction 2, i.e. the proposed acquisition by OFC and BIC of sole control over Quelle Russia. Accordingly, the present decision only relates to Transaction 2. II. THE PARTIES 7. Otto is the holding company of the Otto Group. The Otto Group is a trading and service company, which is internationally active through its subsidiaries in the retail (including home-shopping), financial services and service sectors. OFC and BIC are subsidiaries of Otto. 8. Primondo is the umbrella company for all mail-order activities of Arcandor AG i.l. The activities of Primondo are divided into the areas of universal mail-order (Quelle Group), special mail-order (Primondo Specialty Group GmbH), Teleshopping (Home Shopping Europe 24 GmbH) and Primondo Operations (Primondo Service Group). 9. Quelle Germany is a "multichannel provider" that carries out the universal mailorder sector of the Primondo Group. Quelle.Contact Holding GmbH i.l. is a controlling company of the subgroup Quelle Contact responsible for call centre activities for the Primondo Group. B-Großhandels GmbH C+C Großhandel Objektausstattung i.l. offers products to customers in the fields of industry, commerce, catering, trade, administration and social welfare both by catalogue and online. 10. Quelle Russia operates a distant selling business in the territory of Russia. III. CONCENTRATION 11. As explained above, in Transaction 1 Otto and its subsidiaries PROVISTA, OFC and BIC intend to acquire trademarks and trademark applications, patents, domain names, copyrights, and client data from various companies of the Primondo Group active in the mail-order business. Transaction 1 does thus not relate to the acquisition of Primondo subsidiaries as a going concern but to the acquisition of some of their assets. 12. According to Article 3(1)(b) of the Merger Regulation, also the acquisition of certain assets of an undertaking may constitute the object of control for the purposes of the Merger Regulation. Paragraph 24 of the Commission's Consolidated Jurisdictional Notice further specifies that such assets need to be a business with a market presence, to which a market turnover can be clearly attributed. 2

4 13. The assets at issue in the present case primarily concern the mail-order business and constituted the supporting basis for the business of the respective Primondo subsidiaries and appear to be the remaining valuable assets of the business. Indeed, mail-order companies generally do not have at their disposal their own production facilities or shops. Therefore, assets like the trademarks, domain names, and client data constitute a main basis for such mail-order business and their turnover generated by trading with consumer goods. Accordingly, these assets constitute a business to which a market turnover can be attributed, and their transfer amounts to an acquisition of control within the meaning of Article 3(1) of the Merger Regulation. 14. As regards Transaction 2, Otto's subsidiaries OFC and BIC intend to acquire all shares in Quelle Russia. This acquisition of sole control constitutes a concentration according to Article 3(1)(b) of the Merger Regulation. 15. Transactions 1 and 2 are carried out between the same undertakings and undertakings belonging to the same respective groups simultaneously, i.e. within a two year time frame. All undertakings involved in the two transactions on the seller side are part of the Primondo group and all undertakings involved on the purchaser side are part of the Otto group. The two transactions therefore constitute one concentration in the sense of Article 5 (2) subparagraph 2 of the Merger Regulation. IV. COMMUNITY DIMENSION 16. The undertakings concerned have a combined aggregate world-wide turnover of more than EUR 5 billion (Otto EUR billion, Primondo Group assets to be acquired EUR 2.86 billion) and each of them has a Community-wide turnover in excess of EUR 250 million (Otto EUR 8.84 billion, Primondo Group assets to be acquired EUR 2.65 billion). Otto does not achieve more than two-thirds of its aggregate Community-wide turnover within one and the same Member State. The proposed transaction therefore has a Community dimension within the meaning of Article 1(2) of the EC Merger Regulation. V. THE APPLICATION FOR DEROGATION 17. On 21 December 2009 OFC and BIC applied for a derogation from the suspension obligation under Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation in relation to Transaction They submit that any delay in completing Transaction 2 would cause significant harm to Quelle Russia, the Primondo Group and the Otto Group and that therefore an urgent need exists for Transaction 2 to be implemented. Furthermore, the implementation of Transaction 2 does according to OFC and BIC not lead to any competition concerns. VI. THE CONDITIONS FOR DEROGATION PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 7(3) OF THE MERGER REGULATION 19. Pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation, a concentration falling under that Regulation shall not be implemented either before its notification or until it has been declared compatible with the internal market. Pursuant to Article 7(3) of the Merger 3

5 Regulation, the Commission may, on reasoned request, grant a derogation from the obligation imposed in Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation. 20. Derogation from the obligation to suspend concentrations is granted only exceptionally, normally in circumstances where suspension provided for in the Merger Regulation would cause serious damage to the undertakings concerned by a concentration, or to a third party. 21. In deciding on the request, the Commission must take into account, inter alia, the effects of the suspension on one or more undertakings concerned by the concentration or on a third party and the threat to competition posed by the concentration. A. THE OPERATION FALLS UNDER THE SUSPENSION OBLIGATION PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 7(1) OF THE MERGER REGULATION 22. As explained above, the proposed Transaction 2 is part of a concentration within the meaning of Article 3 of the Merger Regulation that has a Community dimension according to Article 1 thereof. Hence the operation falls under the suspension obligation laid down in Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation. B. THE EFFECTS OF THE SUSPENSION ON THE UNDERTAKINGS CONCERNED AND THIRD PARTIES 23. In its request for the grant of a derogation from the suspension obligation for Transaction 2, OFC and BIC submit that as a result of the insolvency of the Primondo Group also Quelle Russia is on the verge of insolvency. 24. Although Quelle Russia is a legally independent subsidiary, Quelle Russia is according to the derogation request highly linked to and dependent from its parent company on an operative level. Indeed, Quelle Germany maintained data for Quelle Russia, ordered, handled and stored its incoming goods in its main storage facility in Leipzig. Thus, the overall supply of Quelle Russia has so far been handled by Quelle Germany. However, due to the insolvency of Quelle Germany as well as the significant amount of unpaid bills, suppliers are no longer willing to manufacture and sell products for and to Quelle Russia. 25. Furthermore, OFC and BIC submit that due to Russian currency regulations Quelle Russia is not able to make advance payments for new orders. In consequence, Quelle Russia is currently in a very difficult financial and commercial situation, which severely threatens the existence of its business. Quelle Russia, including jobs of approximately 280 employees, would thus only survive if a strong partner stepped in immediately and guaranteed a smooth and broad transition into a stable business. 26. Against this background, it appears that the application of Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation in relation to Transaction 2 would result in considerable economic disadvantages for Quelle Russia and subsequently for Otto Group, which would clearly exceed the disadvantages which typically arise because of the suspension of implementation of a concentration. Furthermore, these disadvantages are due to an exceptional situation, i.e. the current liquidation of the Primondo Group. 4

6 27. On basis of this a priori plausible information the Commission considers that, in the absence of the requested derogation, the suspension imposed by Article 7 (1) of the Merger Regulation could lead to serious harm to Quelle Russia. C. THE THREAT TO COMPETITION POSED BY THE CONCENTRATION 28. Quelle Russia operates a distant selling business via catalogue and internet in Russia. The derogation request submits that Quelle Russia does not export goods into the EU and it will not do so in the future. 29. OFC and BIC submit that Transaction 2 does not raise any competition concerns in the EU or Russia and that it has received merger clearance in Russia on 15 December In the absence of any exports into the EU and in view of the fact that the Commission has previously considered homeshopping markets as national in scope 1, Transaction 2 is not likely, prima facie, to significantly impede effective competition within the EEA. D. BALANCE OF INTERESTS 31. It therefore appears that the suspension obligation could seriously affect the financial interests of Quelle Russia and of the Otto Group. Moreover, at this stage and on the basis of the available information, no prima facie threat to competition caused by the operation can currently be identified. Therefore the Commission finds that a derogation can be granted in accordance with the application. VII. CONCLUSION 32. Based on the above considerations and in accordance with Article 7(3) of the Merger Regulation, Otto is granted a derogation from the obligations imposed by Article 7(1) of the Merger Regulation as far as Transaction 2 is concerned until that transaction has been declared compatible or incompatible with the internal market. For the Commission (signed) Neelie Kroes Member of the Commission 1 Case No IV/M Otto Versand/Freemans, para

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