Client Updates

The Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) Released Report on Their Activities in 2023

On 23 January 2024, GAC published their report on their merger control activities in 2023.

On 23 January 2024, GAC published their report on their merger control activities in 2023. According to the numbers provided in this report GAC provided unconditional clearance for 128 transactions and provided conditional approval for three transactions in 2023. Unlike the report issued by GAC for 2022, the 2023 report does not include any data on or analysis of cases in which fines or other penalties were imposed or gun-jumping cases settled.

The report does not give any information on material matters considered by the authority when assessing transactions. However, it provides statistical data on what type of transactions were reviewed. The majority of transactions reviewed were acquisitions that made up 83 percent of the filings. 14 percent of the submissions concerned joint ventures and the rest were mergers. Over 50 percent of the transactions were horizontal in nature. About a third were defined as conglomerates. The smallest share was vertical transactions.

According to the report, 44 percent of the submissions made were foreign-to-foreign transactions. 36 percent were transactions involving foreign and domestic parties. The remaining 21 percent were purely domestic transactions.

Overall most filings made concerned transactions in the manufacturing sector, which made up 22.9 percent of the filings. The second most relevant sector was the telecommunications sector, which made up 16.6 of the submissions. Other relevant sectors were professional and science services with 8 percent, and financial and insurance services with 6.9 percent of the transactions reviewed.

The report also details the most relevant sectors for foreign-to-foreign transactions. Most foreign-to-foreign transactions submitted concerned the manufacturing sectors, which made up 27 percent of the filings. Other relevant sectors were the wholesale and retail trade along with the automotive sector with 19 percent, and the telecommunications sector with 13.5 percent.

While it is appreciated that GAC attempts to publish data on their activities, the extremely high-level reports published so far do very little in providing transparency. Without details on findings for both clearance decisions and enforcement, such reports do not meaningfully aid assessment of the Saudi merger control regime and its interpretation by GAC. Since such details are also not published with the actual decisions of GAC—these are consistently limited to GAC disclosing the parties, type of transaction, and a one-sentence statement of whether the transaction was cleared—providing further details in reports would be appreciated.

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