* This piece was first published in the January 2018 issue of the Practical Lawyer (2018) PL (Comp. L) Jan 75
With the USD 130 billion merger between global agrochemical giants – Dow Chemicals and E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) being granted a green chit by the European Commission (EC) and the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the significance of innovation in merger assessment has witnessed a renewed focus. The extent and role of innovation in the concerned market is one of the factors that antitrust regulators are required to consider while evaluating a proposed transaction. Ordinarily, this exercise is undertaken to study the impact of the transaction on future innovation and any competitive harm which may result from reduction in the incentives to innovate as also the pro-competitive outcomes emanating from operational synergies which enhance innovation.
In the Dow/DuPont merger, the relevance of innovation was discussed at length by the EC which observed that the merger would not only significantly impede competition in the pesticides and petrochemical industries, at a global level, but would also reduce future innovation in the global pesticides industry. It was noted that the development of effective and environment friendly pesticides required large scale investments and continuous research and development (R&D) and globally, only five players were engaged in R&D in the field of pesticides. The Dow/DuPont merger therefore, would further consolidate market power in an already highly concentrated industry with significant entry barriers and would substantially reduce the parties’ incentives to innovate in the pesticides sector.