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In brief

  • JFTC clears merger between Z Holdings Corporation and LNE Corporation

Remarkable digital platform mergers under the JFTC’s revised merger review guidelines.

This update was published on 16 October 2020 as part of our quarterly newsletter, Asia Pacific Competition Highlights. Click here to access the full report, which covers the most notable antitrust developments across 11 Asia Pacific jurisdictions.


JFTC clears merger between Z Holdings Corporation and LINE Corporation

The merger between Z Holdings and LINE received attention as the model case on JFTC’s treatment of digital platform mergers and dominance through data aggregation, which are the focus under the JFTC’s merger review guidelines revised on 17 December 2020.

On 4 August 2020, JFTC concluded the merger between Z Holdings Corporation (“Z Holdings”, owner of Yahoo Japan and part of the SoftBank Group) and LINE Corporation (“LINE”, part of the NAVER group) is unlikely to restrain competition in the relevant markets, provided that the parties perform their proposed measures.

The parties and JFTC exchanged opinions over a period of nearly ten months since November 2019. JFTC focused on the parties’ three overlapping businesses:

  1. News distribution business via the internet: JFTC concluded that competition in the market of free content news is not restrained.
  2. Digital advertisement business: in relation to the markets of non-search engine optimized advertising and advertising agency services owning ad spaces, JFTC evaluated the parties’ competitiveness by the types, volume and frequency of data they collect as well as their cross-utilization of data in various services.

QR code payment business: JFTC defined two markets with regard to QR code payment services, one facing the users as customers and the other facing the merchants. While JFTC could not ignore the parties’ substantial market shares, it closely looked into the developing status of the market. Some notable information referred to by JFTC are the parties’ economic analysis report and the internal communication regarding price raise. JFTC’s clearance is based on the parties’ proposal to terminate their exclusivity terms with merchants and to report annually for the next three years.

Author

Dr. Akira Inoue is a partner at Baker McKenzie's Tokyo office, and has been handling cross-border antitrust cases for more than 18 years. He is highly respected for his knowledge of antitrust and competition law, giving presentations at numerous events and having authored 10 books and more than 87 articles on the subject. The government frequently seeks his opinions on competition policy and government reports often cite his articles. Dr. Inoue has been serving Japanese companies as lead defense counsel since becoming involved in the international vitamin cartel case. Most recently, he successfully secured compliance credit for only the second time in the history of antitrust practice and won a 40% fine reduction. He is further distinguished as the sole member of the steering committee of Baker McKenzie's Global Antitrust & Competition Group from the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Inoue has been recognized as a “Leading Individual” by Chambers Asia (2010-2018), Who’s Who Legal (2016-2018) and Best Lawyers in Japan (2017). He is recognized at the lawyer ranking published by Nikkei News Paper (2018).