UK's OFT Will Not Refer Transocean & GSF to Competition Commission

The OFT has decided today not to refer the anticipated merger between Transocean Inc. and GlobalSantaFe to the Competition Commission (CC) provided that satisfactory undertakings are given. The OFT's merger concerns arise from the combination of the parties' fleets of floating drilling rigs. These rigs are contracted on a staffed basis and used by customers primarily for exploration for oil and gas in the seabed for certain water depths, including in the UK continental shelf (UKCS). The UKCS has been the OFT's area of focus as significant evidence on relative price movements suggests it is a separate geographic market from other areas. Transocean accounts for 45 per cent of floating rigs in the UKCS, and the merger adds significantly to its share, prompting strong customer concerns. While the parties' divestment remedy offer looks promising, the transaction will ultimately be referred if the parties do not in due course agree to finalized undertakings.

Simon Pritchard, the OFT's Senior Director of Mergers, said:

'Transocean's fleet of rigs is by far the largest in the UKCS and the merger eliminates GSF as a rival bidder for contracts in future. While the relevant GSF fleet is not especially large, the loss of this bidder raises concerns where the foreseeable market looks to remain very tight - with insufficient spare capacity or new build likely to challenge the merged firm - and where the weight of customer concern has been very substantial. On balance, we believe there is a realistic prospect of substantially less competition with the potential for higher day-rates and lower service standards post-merger. We therefore welcome the parties' offer to divest GSF's rig fleet located in the UKCS. This proposed settlement with the OFT protects customers by restoring relevant competition to its pre-merger level; at the same time, it will not delay the rest of this global transaction between two U.S.-based players.'


1. The Reference Test - the OFT has a duty to make a reference to the CC 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 percent share of supply in the UK (or a substantial part thereof) is created or enhanced.

3. Under section 73 of the Enterprise Act 2002 the OFT may, instead of making a reference, and for the purpose of remedying, mitigating or preventing the substantial lessening of competition concerned, or any adverse effect which has or may have resulted from it or may be expected to result from it, accept from such of the parties concerned as it considers appropriate undertakings to take such action as it considers appropriate. In doing so, the OFT will have regard to the need to achieve as comprehensive a solution as is reasonable and practicable to the substantial lessening of competition and any adverse effects resulting from it.

4. Before accepting any such undertakings under Schedule 10 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the OFT shall give notice of the proposed undertakings and will consider any representations made in accordance with that notice.