Companies grudgingly accept the need for the OFT and MMC to regulate competition. Their main gripe is that, in the end, it all comes down to a political lottery.
Large or small, bids and mergers have one thing in common - the likelihood of a brush with Britain's competition regulators. For smaller companies without battalions of legal advisers, it can be a daunting prospect. But even for large companies, the UK's system of regulating competition can sometimes seem something of a lottery with the final decision on whether to pass or block a bid or merger very often down to a politician - the president of the board of trade, currently Margaret Beckett. Since her appointment in May, Beckett has confounded expectations on a number of deals - referring some for further investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) which were thought likely to escape, like the Pacificorp bid for Energy Group, blocking others such as the £200 million Carlsberg Tetley/Bass deal, and refusing to take a decision on another, the P&O/Stena merger, until the European Commission has reached its conclusion on the deal.