INEOS chair Sir Jim Ratcliffe has lashed out at Britain’s competition watchdog for being “increasingly hostile” to business – after it blocked a $1bn deal involving his firm.
The business titan who founded the private chemicals giant made his comments after the Competition and Markets Authority prevented INEOS’ acquisition of Sika AG, a concrete additives business.
Last month, there was speculation the CMA would look into Vodafone and Three’s major tie up, while it blocked a series of deals, including for a hearing aid giant.
INEOS agreed to buy the firm in January and the pair jointly submitted the deal to the CMA in March, receiving a negative response just nine days later.
Ratcliffe claims it was refused despite no competing business – and the CMA having refused to meet face-to-face.
The latest snub led to Sir Jim Ratcliffe accusing the CMA of “building a reputation as an overly aggressive regulator with little regard for the impact of its decisions on UK business.”
Its attitude is mirrored in the lack of government support for manufacturing; whether in reviews such as this, or in our uncompetitive approach to energy policy.”
Sika AG employed 1,600 people across the world producing concrete admixtures needed for the construction industry, with Ratcliffe saying the $1bn snub has led to it being bought by a US firm instead.
He claimed “the CMA and UK government are becoming increasingly hostile to business.”
“This is yet another example of a deal being stopped that would benefit the UK and handed over to the Americans who were absolutely delighted. Add to this, the ridiculous North Sea windfall tax and continuing high energy costs and we are seeing a government that is driving business out of the UK.”
Meanwhile, in May chancellor Jeremy Hunt met the CMA for discussions on food prices amid the cost of living crisis.
Responding to Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s remarks, a CMA spokesperson told City A.M. that “effective merger control is pro-business and pro-growth.”
Estimates show that during the past 3 years, the CMA merger regime saved consumers more than £2 billion. It also enabled UK businesses to enter new markets and grow.
“When we conclude a deal can go ahead subject to part of a merged business being sold, we assess, among other criteria, whether potential buyers could lead to further competition problems.”
It is critical when approving a potential buyer that we don’t allow new competition problems to develop. We note that Ineos is one of only three major suppliers of a key product that Sika and its competitors rely on.”
Earlier in the year, Sir Jim Ratcliffe was among the investors looking to buy Manchester United football club.
The Department for Business and Trade has been approached for comment.