While the competition authorities are on a drive to sniff out anti-competitive behaviour in industries ranging from bricks to meat producers and fire companies, their oversight of company deals appears to have fallen by the wayside – with Italtile’s attempt to buy Ceramic Industries an apparent casualty.

Having first announced its plan to acquire a further 73.5% stake in Ceramic Industries last April, Italtile is still no closer to sealing a deal. The Competition Commission blocked the acquisition, prompting an appeal hearing with the tribunal in October 2016. A full hearing was set for March, but it was delayed to July 10 to give the commission time to prepare. That delay resulted in the hearing falling outside the extension date that Italtile and Ceramic had stipulated in their original merger talks. This means the extension date has now been pushed to the end of September. Italtile is still hopeful that a final presentation of arguments — set for August 18 — will see the appeal fall in its favour. The irony is that the two companies were founded and are majority-owned by the same man. Giovanni Ravazzotti established Italtile in 1969 and Ceramic in 1976, the latter in anticipation of sanctions against SA that would interrupt imports of Italtile’s products from Italy.Hugh Herman, c...

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