The Italian Antitrust Authority gave the green light to the take-over of MCT by Aponte
The horizontal concentration effects in the Mediterranean do not give rise to concerns (though in the meanwhile the scenario is changing). With regard to vertical ones, the AGCM seems to be regarding the integration between companies and terminal operators as an unavoidable trend
Also the Italian Competition and Market Authority (AGCM) gave the green light to the take over of 100% of Gioia Tauro MCT terminal by MSC group.
The resolution was taken after having collected information and integrations until the beginning of July (while MSC had already settled in the terminal, placing an order for new equipments, part of which has already been delivered), and it took into account the clarifications provided to the body by the two parties involved (TIL, MSC's terminal operator as the purchaser, and Contship), by the Gioia Tauro Port Authority and by Automar (Grimaldi Euromed), as well as the remarks of the local General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria), which opposed the transaction from the very beginning.
First of all, the AGCM provided an overview of the activities of TIL Sarl, operating 40 terminal containers worldwide, three of which in Italy (in fact, besides its 50% stake in Gioia, it is active also in Trieste, holding 50% of TMT, and in Genoa, holding 100% of Bettolo). In the Mediterranean, it also holds “50% of the shares in the Marport terminal container in Ambarli (Turkey), 70% of the Asyaport (Turkey) terminal and 100% of the Valencia (Spain) MSC Terminal”.
According to the Antitrust Authority – which follows the European Commission's guidelines – the reference market to measure the possible concentration effects of the transaction is only the Mediterranean market, in particular the ports dealing mainly with transhipment as Gioia. As the Authority illustrated, said market includes the Egyptian ports of Port Said and Damietta, the Piraeus, Beirut, the Turkish ports of Ambarli, Asyaport, Mersin, Yarimca; the Spanish ports of Algeciras, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia; Malta Freeport and the Italian port of Cagliari.
However, this market will reduce further, both because the port of Cagliari will soon be removed from the above list (due to the crisis of Contship's CICT terminal), and because TIL itself – holding 50% of the Marport terminal – announced an agreement with Arkas to achieve 100%.
At present, the AGCM is not taking into consideration these developments, but it only concluded that, given the current market shares, the share “that the TIL Group will held following the concentration transaction will amount to [15-20]% of the relevant market in terms of TEUs”, therefore “it will not create competition concerns”.
The ACGM evaluated also the “vertical effects resulting from the integration between shipping companies and terminal operator”, pointing out that they must be evaluated “in a reference industrial context, where the main transhipment hubs within the same relevant market increasingly tend to concentrate their services to specific shipping companies due to the scale sizes of the activity and to the complex nature of the services to be supplied”, and that they “are increasingly controlled by shipping companies concentrating traffics with them”.
The examples mentioned are “Malta with CMS, Piraeus with Cosco, Malaga with Cosco, Port Said with Maersk and Cosco, Algeciras with Maersk and Cosco”.
Essentially, the AGCM regards vertical concentration as unavoidable, pointing out that MSC is MCT's main customer since 2009, and that in 2018 it represented almost all the volumes handled in Gioia Tauro. Therefore, the vertical integration resulting from the full control of MCT by TIL “will not imply significant changes for the existing vertical competition relations”.
Finally, the Competition and Market Authority observed that also sector regulations help “minimizing the possible vertical risks ascribable to the integration between MSC group and the concessionaire company of the port of Gioia Tauro” as they “force the concessionaire to grant equal and non-discriminatory access to all the maritime transport companies applying for it”. This will avoid “possible exclusionary strategies aiming at preventing MSC's competitors from accessing the port to carry out maritime transport activities”.