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129/09 2 November 2009
The OFT has today referred the anticipated acquisition of Friends Reunited Holdings Limited by Brightsolid Group Limited to the Competition Commission for further investigation.
Brightsolid, which runs websites Find My Past.com and 1911 Census.com, and Friends Reunited which owns Genes Reunited.com, are two of the three largest suppliers of online genealogy services in the UK. These websites allow users to search and access historical information and documents such as census results, birth, marriage and death records, and also supply family tree software.
Currently, the merging firms both compete with Ancestry.co.uk, the market leader, for these services. The OFT's investigation focused on the extent of direct competition between the merging parties, the level of competition provided by other smaller online genealogy providers, and the potential for future entry or expansion in this market.
On the basis of the evidence it received, the OFT does not believe that the current competition in this market or the potential for future entry is sufficiently strong to prevent the merged firm from reducing the quality or range of its services, or possibly raising prices.
Amelia Fletcher, OFT Senior Director of Mergers, said:
'People's growing interest in researching their family tree has made this an increasingly important market.
'The proposed acquisition would see the three main providers of online genealogy services reduced to two, and we are concerned this could lead to a reduction in choice or service for consumers. We are therefore referring the merger to the Competition Commission for a fuller inquiry.'
The Competition Commission is expected to report by 16 April 2010.
1. The reference test - The OFT has a duty to make a reference to the Competition Commission if the OFT believes that it is or may be the case that arrangements are in progress or in contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation, and the creation of that situation may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.
2. Under the Enterprise Act 2002 a relevant merger situation is created if two or more enterprises have ceased to be distinct enterprises, and the value of the turnover in the United Kingdom of the enterprise being taken over exceeds £70 million, or as a result of the transaction, in relation to the supply of goods or services of any description, a 25 per cent share of supply in the UK (or a substantial part thereof) is created or enhanced.
3. The CC may extend the 24-week period within which it is required to publish its report by no more than eight weeks if it considers that there are special reasons why the report cannot be published within that period.
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