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With the recent spate of inquiries into generative AI investments, there is no doubt that the spotlight of EU competition authorities is on one topic: generative AI. The authorities' determination for greater oversight of AI is backed by the EU's ambitious AI Act and the establishment of the EU Artificial Intelligence Office. But that's not all: with the current Call for Contribution 'Competition in Virtual Worlds and Generative AI', open until 11 March 2024, the European Commission is calling on regulatory experts to gather views on AI from a competition perspective. In other words, the EU Commission is gearing up for competition regulation of AI at EU level.

This briefing provides an overview of current antitrust topics from EU competition authorities' lens. Together with recent EU regulatory developments, these should be anticipated by generative AI model providers and their investors or partners alike.

This briefing is the first in a series of AI briefings, spotlighting current AI-related hot topics in competition law, public procurement law, trade/foreign direct investments (FDI), and ESG.

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BLOMSTEIN has kicked-off a series of briefings on current legal topics in the defence sector. In our last briefing, we discussed our take on how to get direct awards. Today, we focus on the recent merger clearance of the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) for the acquisition of ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH by Hensoldt Holding Germany GmbH. This merger clearance underscores a pivotal moment in defence industry consolidation. The merger is set against a backdrop of geopolitical shifts and heightened defence investment. ESG's expertise as a system integrator focused on the development, integration, and support of third-party electronic systems complements Hensoldt, a leading manufacturer of defence electronics, including radars and optoelectronic systems. This briefing explores the antitrust law implications and the unique characteristics of the defence market, particularly in the context of the current geopolitical climate marked by the urgency of strengthening defence capabilities through innovation and investment and the rapid digitalization of the battlefield.

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As announced last week, BLOMSTEIN is publishing a series of briefings introducing into European and German legal defence matters. In preparation for the new year, our defence team got together and identified the topics that we believe will be relevant for companies in the security and defence industry in the EU and Germany in international trade law, ESG, antitrust law and public procurement law:

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On 12 October 2023, the notification and declaration obligations of the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) will finally start to apply. The new review procedures for M&A transactions and bids in public procurement procedures are aimed to address distortions caused by foreign subsidies and thus ensure a level playing field for all companies operating in the EU Single Market. While the European Commission has recently provided further clarity on some of the procedural aspects of the FSR (see our latest briefing), there is still significant uncertainty about the actual compliance requirements for companies. This briefing aims to alert businesses to the pitfalls to watch out for and to provide practical guidance on how to successfully navigate these new regulatory waters.

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BLOMSTEIN hat den deutschen Mobilitätsspezialisten ZF Friedrichshafen AG erfolgreich beim Verkauf seiner Anteile an der ASAP Holding GmbH an eine Tochtergesellschaft des indischen Technologieunternehmen HCL Technologies, Inc zu investitions- und fusionskontrollrechtlichen Aspekten beraten. Die Transaktion wurde zwischenzeitlich von den zuständigen Behörden, insbesondere dem Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz, genehmigt.

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Wir freuen uns bekanntzugeben, dass BLOMSTEIN drei neue Counsel ernennt:

  • Mit Dr. Elisa Theresa Hauch, die zum 1. September 2023 zu uns gestoßen ist, erweitern wir uns um eine versierte Kartellrechts-Expertin, die zuletzt bei Amazon Music als Inhouse Juristin tätig war und zuvor bei namhaften US-Kanzleien in Brüssel beraten hat.

Zwei weitere Counsel ernennen wir aus eigenen Reihen zum
1. Januar 2024:

  • Dr. Leonard Freiherr von Rummel ist Spezialist im Außenwirtschaftsrecht. Seit seinem Beginn bei BLOMSTEIN schon kurz nach unserer Gründung hat er sich zu einem führenden Namen in den Bereichen Investitionskontrolle, Zoll- und Verbrauchsteuerrecht sowie Exportkontrolle entwickelt und entscheidend zum Erfolg unserer außenwirtschaftsrechtlichen Praxis beigetragen.

  • Auch Dr. Christopher Wolters gehört bereits seit Gründungstagen zu unserem Team und hat als Spezialist im Vergabe- und Außenwirtschaftsrecht vor allem unsere Praxis für nationale Sicherheit (mit Schwerpunkt auf Rüstungsbeschaffung sowie Exportkontrolle) und Vergaberecht in den Sektoren Healthcare und IT maßgeblich mit auf- und ausgebaut.

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On 21 June, Brazil’s competition authority (CADE) issued an unprecedented decision relating to sustainability agreements when approving a joint venture (JV) between leading traders of agricultural commodities worldwide (Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, ADM). In the absence of specific guidelines pertaining to horizontal cooperations, CADE seized the moment presented by the transaction to establish more comprehensive guidance as to its view on sustainability agreements in the context of B2B sector-specific data management systems (see press release here).

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On July 12, the first of three instruments of the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) entered into force. As of this date, the Commission is entitled to initiate investigations into third country subsidies that distort the internal market either on its own initiative or based on a complaint by a third-party (so-called ex officio tool). Later this year, the notification-based instruments for mergers and bids in procurement procedures will enter into force on October 12. Then, companies exceeding the thresholds set by the FSR in the relevant market situations will be required to notify financial contributions granted by third countries to the Commission. Just in time for the entry into force of the ex officio tool, the Commission adopted the Implementing Regulation on July 10, which provides procedural information but also has a direct impact on the scope and interpretation of the FSR. The Commission also responded to the significant criticism raised by companies and associations, particularly with regard to the high administra-tive burden triggered by the FSR.

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“We want a competition law with claws and teeth”, Minister for Economic Affairs and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck promised last summer. Yesterday, the German Bun-destag took a major step towards fulfilling that promise by passing a new reform bill – the so-called Competition Enforcement Act (CEA). At the heart of the new provisions stand significantly increased powers of intervention for the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) to remedy distortions of competition following a sector inquiry. Previous-ly, such inquiries only served as a means for the FCO to form the empirical basis for its future case practice. It did not, however, permit the authority to directly intervene against individual companies or anti-competitive conditions. Will the greatly bolstered instrument of the sector inquiry – long dismissed by many as a paper tiger – live up to Mr. Habeck’s bold promise?

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BLOMSTEIN represents Fastned in review proceedings concerning the award of contracts for the construction, maintenance and operation of fast charging stations at serviced rest stops on the German federal highways. The contract had been awarded to companies of the Tank & Rast Group by the Autobahn GmbH of the German Government without conducting a competitive public procurement procedure.

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