AdC opens in-depth investigation into the SIBS / Unicre Assets proceeding

​Press Release 25/2016

AdC opens in-depth investigation into the SIBS / Unicre Assets proceeding

The Portuguese Competition Authority (AdC) has adopted a decision to proceed to an in-depth investigation into the merger operation involving the acquisition, by SIBS, SGPS, SA, of the exclusive control of a group of assets of Unicre – Instituição Financeira de crédito, S.A. related to its merchant acquiring activity.

The AdC decided on 12 December to initiate an in-depth investigation of the merger on the grounds that, in light of the information gathered during the first stage of the proceeding, there are indications that the operation may result in significant impediments to effective competition in the market for merchant acquiring services through physical POS.

In the in-depth investigation phase the AdC will carry out further assessments in order to confirm or refute the possibility that significant impediments to effective competition might arise from the operation, namely market foreclosure risks resulting from the integration, in the same undertaking, of complementary activities in the payment cards sector.

SIBS is the holding company of the SIBS Group which holds equity interests in several companies specializing in service areas in the electronic payments sector, including, in particular, the processing, management and maintenance of networks and payment solutions, as well as management of payments system under the MB brand.

The assets object of the merger are related to Unicre's merchant acquiring business area, under the Redunicre brand, which designs and commercializes solutions for accepting payments in shops, both physical and virtual, with payment cards from the main national and international payment systems, including, among others, MB, Visa and MasterCard.

Market foreclosure in the merchant acquiring market may result in significant lessening of competition in the merchant acquiring and payment systems markets, subsequently leading to higher merchant and acquirer fees and, ultimately, harming consumers.

The following interested third parties were admitted in the proceedings: the Portuguese Association of Retailers (APED), Banco BIC and Caixa Central de Crédito Agrícola Mútuo (both Portuguese financial institutions with acquiring business in Portugal), Visa Europe Services, Inc. and Bizfirst, Business First Consulting – Consulting in Information systems, SA.

The interested third parties submitted observations on the operation and its potential impacts on competition, which were duly considered by the AdC in its decision.

Under the current Competition Law, after the in-depth investigation phase proceedings, the Competition Authority:
- Adopts a Non-Opposition Decision, if it considers that the operation, as notified, or as a result of changes made by the notifier, is not likely to create significant impediments to competition; or

- Adopts an Opposition Decision and consequently prohibits the concentration, if it considers that the operation as notified, or following modifications introduced by the notifier, is likely to create significant impediments to effective competition.

13 December 2016