The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's annual merger report shows that a total of 41 mergers were notified in 2020, a 13% decrease on 2019. 

The report shows that the Information and Communications and Healthcare sectors were the most prominent sectors for notifications.

Under competition law, businesses which meet certain financial thresholds must notify the CCPC about a proposed acquisition or merger before it can take effect. 

In many cases the impact on competition will be minimal, but some acquisitions can reduce competition significantly by reducing the number of competitors and/or by changing the way the remaining competitors behave. 

This can negatively affect consumers through higher prices, lower quality, less choice or innovation. 

The CCPC said its role is to assess whether a proposed acquisition is likely to substantially lessen competition in the relevant market. It can either clear a transaction, block it or clear it subject to binding commitments.

During the year, 43 determinations were issued by the CCPC, one of which required commitments to secure approval. 

15 notifications required an extended Phase 1 review, including the BoyleSports/GT Retail deal, the Easons/Dubray Books deal and the Uniphar/Hickeys deal. 

Two required a Phase 2 investigation - the Link Group/Pepper deal and the ESB/Coillte deal. 

In response to Covid-19, the CCPC in March put in place processes to ensure business continuity in the review of notified mergers and acquisitions. 

These measures included the acceptance of electronic notification of mergers where notification forms can be completed and returned via email, the reviewing of mergers almost entirely through remote working and extended deadlines for responses under formal powers.

The CCPC also obtained designation as a statutory body that can conduct remote oral hearings in phase 2 mergers.

Commission member Brian McHugh said that Covid-19 has impacted nearly all areas of society and the merger notification and review processes have been no different.

"The CCPC moved quickly and introduced a number of measures to ensure our work continued in an efficient manner. In addition, we continuously monitor and carefully assess the impact and potential future impacts of Covid-19 on the merger review regime," Mr McHugh said. 

The CCPC's simplified merger notification procedure (SMP) also started in July. 

"The CCPC decided to introduce such a procedure following a public consultation period in late 2018 to reduce the time and resources required of businesses. Notifying parties are now exempt from providing certain information when filing mergers or acquisitions which do not raise significant competition concerns", Brian McHugh said. 

"To date, the CCPC has cleared seven mergers under the SMP with an average time of 13.4 working days to issue a Phase 1 decision," he added.

Brian McHugh said that it is important that businesses have the confidence that notifications will be dealt with in a timely manner, in particular where no significant competition issues arise. 

"The SMP regime has delivered further efficiency benefits for businesses through a reduced notification burden and speedier decision timelines," he added.