On 16 December 2020, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) was notified of the acquisition of a 100% stake in Rheinwerk Verlag GmbH by Heise Medien GmbH & Co. KG. The merger concerns publishing, specifically information material for IT and photography, as well as the organisation of conferences.
Market definition concerns
The AFCA and Federal Cartel Prosecutor had concerns about the market definition proposed by the notifying parties, who attributed IT and photography information material to the general entertainment and information material market. This market definition might be too broad, with the given market shares not reflecting the actual competitive situation.
AFCA market survey
Owing to these concerns and in order to better assess the effects on competition, the AFCA conducted a market survey. To this end, the Authority questioned publishing houses and booksellers on the current competitive situation in the market for IT and photography publications.
Market survey results
The businesses surveyed raised some competition issues and stated that there was fierce and even intense competition in the market for IT and photography information material. They also pointed out that booksellers’ bargaining position was strong. There were also some critical voices about Rheinwerk’s category management activity for a bookseller in Germany. From the competitors’ point of view, this activity impeded their access to that bookseller.
To address these competition issues, the merger parties suggested the following conditions to the AFCA and Federal Cartel Prosecutor:
- dpunkt.verlag GmbH and Rheinwerk Verlag GmbH undertake not to offer category management in the area of IT/photography for Austrian booksellers for a period of five years.
- Heise Medien GmbH & Co. KG, which publishes the magazines c’t, c’t Fotografie, Technology Review, Make and Mac & i, commits for a period of five years to adding a note to each review of book titles published by dPunkt or Rheinwerk to the effect that these book titles are published by companies belonging to the Heise Group.
The conditions can be found in detail here (in German):
Commitments Z-5155 Heise Medien GmbH & Co. KG; Rheinwerk Verlag (Germann Version)