UK Authority Taking Second Look At Sports Fashion Merger

By Christopher Cole
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Law360 (March 31, 2021, 7:54 PM EDT) -- Britain's competition watchdog announced Wednesday it will reevaluate JD Sports' £90 million ($124 million) merger with a rival fashion retailer after an appellate body struck down its attempts to reverse the deal.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority published an outline for how it will conduct a remittal of the merger case, in which the CMA is scrutinizing the already completed deal between JD Sports and Footasylum. The watchdog made clear that it would examine the impact of COVID-19 on the affected businesses.

CMA's purported failure to assess the pandemic's economic impact was blamed for its loss at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, where JD Sports had successfully challenged the authority's move to kill the merger.

"The CMA is now inviting written submissions on the matters that fall within the scope of the remittal, including in particular on the impact of COVID-19 on the merging parties, their competitors and the markets in which they operate more generally," the authority said Wednesday.

The authority's reconsideration of the deal comes after the Court of Appeal decided not to grant a review of the Competition Appeal Tribunal's decision in December against the CMA.

The tribunal reached its judgment in JD Sports' appeal of the decision to unwind the merger on Nov. 13. In that ruling, it pointed to the agency's assessment of the pandemic's impact on Footasylum and suppliers including Nike and Adidas and said enforcers had not gone far enough.

The CMA said Wednesday that comments are due April 16 on the remittal, and that it anticipates issuing a provisional report around July and its final report around September.

A representative for JD Sports could not be immediately reached late Wednesday.

--Additional reporting by Matthew Perlman, Nadia Dreid and Anne Cullen. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

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