CLASSIFIED ADS MERGER CASE REFERRED BACK TO VILNIUS REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE COURT FOR REEVALUATION
The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (Court) upheld the appeal of the Competition Council and annulled the ruling of Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, according to which the Council was obliged to conduct an additional investigation regarding the merger of the Estonian managers of classified ads.
The Court annulled the ruling of the court of first instance due to its false interpretation and application of legal norms that regulate merger notification and examination procedure, as well as unreasonable obligation to conduct an additional investigation which was imposed on the Council. The Court noted that the maximum four months term during which the decision is supposed to be adopted might be extended by one month only if the Council examines the notification subject to remedies and if the undertaking requests the extension of the term. The Council, however, received no such requests.
The Court referred the case back to Vilnius Regional Administrative Court for reevaluation. Once again the court of first instance will have to decide whether the Council reasonably blocked the acquisition of 100 per cent of AllePAL shares by Eesti Meedia. In 2016 the Council found that the merger significantly restricted competition in the Lithuanian markets of classified ads for real estate and vehicles.
During the examination of the merger the Council found that UAB Plius and UAB Vertikali medija (related to AS Eesti Meedia), and UAB Diginet LT (related to AllePAL OÜ), are the biggest managers of classified ads websites for real estate and vehicles in Lithuania. Suspecting that the acquisition of AllePAL by Eesti Meedia might have created or strengthened a dominant position or restricted competition in the relevant markets, the Council obliged the merging parties to submit a merger notification. Having examined the notification, the Council found that the merger implemented in 2014 eliminated competition among classified ads websites and increased prices of classified ads for real estate and vehicles.