City A.M. Reporter
US ANTITRUST authorities are revamping guidelines on company mergers and takeovers in a bid to encourage greater competition, potentially causing a headache for firms looking to tie the knot. <br /><br />The 17-year old guidelines are to be overhauled amid expectations that the Obama administration will give corporate combinations a tougher review.<br /><br />Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said: “The 1992 guidelines explicitly stated that they would be revised from time to time. We think the time has come to do that.”<br /><br />The FTC and Justice Department share the job of ensuring that mergers do not violate antitrust law.<br /><br />The corporate community has been bracing for the Obama administration to be tougher than its Republican predecessor in assessing mergers and the actions of companies that dominate their markets.<br /><br />Leibowitz said that as they currently stand, the merger guidelines “clearly exaggerate the extent to which the agencies follow a single, rigid, step-by-step approach in merger analysis”.<br /><br />“We are announcing the guidelines project now, but do not have a draft, let alone anything to release at this point,” he said. “On the contrary, we are soliciting comments.”<br /><br />Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Antitrust Division, said that having clearer guidelines would give businesses more clarity when making merger decisions, which would ultimately benefit customers. <br /><br />The move to revamp the guidelines, which were adopted in 1968 and revised in 1982 and 1992, comes as tentative signs emerge that the mergers and acquisitions market is recovering. <br /><br />In the three months from June to August, global M&A rose 29 per cent compared to the preceding three months.