Yesterday, I was walking through my former neighborhood Dorćol and saw a grocery I would sometimes go to being renovated. The brand was now different – instead of a local brand ‘Višnjica’ it now read ‘Idea’, which is the brand which Croatian Konzum uses in Serbia. And, as it turned out, that single store was the subject of a merger clearance of the Serbian Competition Commission…

The Serbian Commission now regularly publishes its decisions, so in the merger clearance at hand I could read that the store was being leased to Idea, which the Commission qualified as a concentration. The decision doesn’t state the duration of the lease – but there have been instances where, for the Commission, even a lease of just one year was a concentration.

The total area of the leased space was less than 800 square meters. Recognizing that the subject of the lease was only one store, the Commission found that the transaction was unable to cause any negative effects, either vertical or horizontal. And it cleared it in Phase I.

The way the Serbian filing thresholds are set, since the acquirer of control has a turnover of more than EUR 100 million worldwide and more than EUR 10 million in Serbia, it seems that whatever store a company like Idea leases, no matter how small the turnover attributable to the target, is a notifiable concentration.

What is more, since the Serbian Commission holds that for the filing obligation to arise there is no need for effects in Serbia, this means that an undertaking exceeding the turnover thresholds would need to file in Serbia even a lease of a store taking place in another part of the world.

This is comparable to the lease of aircraft or acquisition of real estate anywhere in the world also being a potentially notifiable concentration. And both are of doubtful contribution to the protection of competition in Serbia.