On 24 March 2023, the Competition Commission (the “Commission”) initiated its latest proceeding against company Hotelsko, ugostiteljsko i turističko preduzeće Moskva d.o.o. Beograd (“Moskva”) for allegedly implementing a notifiable concentration without obtaining a prior approval from the Commission. Namely, the company Moskva which is the owner of the landmark Hotel Moscow located in the center of Belgrade, appears to have acquired Hotel Tonanti located in the Raška District of central Serbia, in 2022.
The proceeding was initiated based on publicly available information and the Commission’s insight into various online sources including a YouTube channel, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, local newspapers and webpage of the local radio and television stations. Based on the available information the Commission concluded that there has been a change in the ownership of the Hotel Tonanti and that this hotel now shares the same ultimate owner with the Hotel Moscow and the company Moskva.
Further inquiry into financial statements published on the Serbian Business Registry Agency’s website has shown that the acquiring group (i.e. all the companies, including Moskva, ultimately controlled by the same natural person in this case) and the Hotel Tonanti appear to have exceeded legally prescribed merger filing thresholds. Accordingly, the Commission alleges that there was a mandatory merger filing obligation in relation to the acquisition of the Hotel Tonanti by Moskva.
In case the Commission finds that gun-jumping occurred, the acquirer could be fined in the amount of up to 10% of the turnover realized in the Republic of Serbia in the year preceding the initiation of proceedings. Following the assessment of the transaction and in case the transaction amounts to a prohibited concentration that negatively affects market competition, the Commission may also prohibit the concentration, i.e., order demerger.
Historically the Serbian Competition Commission did not conduct gun-jumping investigations as frequently. However, that has significantly changed recently and since 2017 the Competition Commission has issued four penalties, three of which were from 2021 onwards. This latest investigation may arguably represent an indication that the Serbian Commission will continue with its increased enforcement activities in the merger control sector.
The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.