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United Kingdom Competition Commission : CC provisionally clears laser eye surgery merger

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10/27/2013 | 04:50am EDT

25 Oct 2013

The Competition Commission (CC) has provisionally cleared Optimax Clinics Limited's (Optimax's) completed acquisition of Ultralase Ltd (Ultralase), after accepting that Ultralase would otherwise have gone out of business.

Optimax acquired Ultralase, which operated 23 laser eye treatment clinics and three consultation centres across the UK, in November 2012.

In its provisional findings published today, the CC has concluded that without its sale to Optimax, Ultralase would have failed financially and there would have been no alternative purchaser, leaving just Optimax and Optical Express as the only large suppliers of laser eye treatments in the UK. In that case, the majority of its sales were likely to have gone to Optimax and Optical Express, as alternative suppliers would have been unlikely to capture materially more of Ultralase's business than with the merger.

The CC has therefore provisionally decided to clear the merger because there is no prospect of a more competitive outcome.

Alasdair Smith, CC Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the laser eye merger Inquiry Group, commented:

'On the basis of the evidence we have seen, we believe that Ultralase had significant and irrecoverable financial failings. Without the merger Ultralase would have exited the market and the large majority of its sales would have gone to Optimax and the market leader Optical Express. Compared with this alternative outcome, the merger is likely to cause little loss of competition and we have provisionally decided to clear the transaction.'

'It is unusual for us to conclude that a firm is failing. We scrutinize such claims critically and carefully. However, we believe that the evidence we have seen so far in this case does meet the stringent criteria we set and it shows that, in the appropriate circumstances, we can act quickly in coming to a decision.'

The provisional findings are available on the inquiry home page along with other information relating to the inquiry.

The CC will consider responses to the provisional findings before publishing its final report, which it must do by 12 January 2014.

The CC would like to hear from all interested parties in writing about the provisional findings by 15 November 2013. To submit evidence, please email optimax-ultralase@cc.gsi.gov.uk or write to:

Inquiry Manager
Optimax/Ultralase inquiry
Competition Commission
Victoria House
Southampton Row
LONDON
WC1B 4AD

Notes for editors

1. The CC is an independent public body, which carries out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries.

2. The members of the Optimax/Ultralase Inquiry Group are: Alasdair Smith (CC Deputy Chairman & Chairman of the Group), John Krumins, Gavin Robert and Ed Smith.

3. The Enterprise Act 2002 empowers the OFT to refer to the CC completed or proposed mergers for investigation and report which create or enhance a 25 per cent share of supply in the UK (or a substantial part thereof) or where the UK turnover associated with the enterprise being acquired is over £70 million.

4. The CC has a 24-week period in which it is required to publish its report, which may be extended by no more than eight weeks if it considers that there are special reasons why the report cannot be published within that period.

5. Further information on this inquiry, including the terms of reference and other key documents, as well as on the CC and its procedures, including its policy on the provision of information and the disclosure of evidence, can be obtained from the CC website at: www.competition-commission.org.uk.

6. Enquiries should be directed to Rory Taylor or Siobhan Allen or by ringing 020 7271 0242.

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