Trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel’s active approach to merger regulation may loom large for corporate dealmakers. But it rated just a sentence in the president’s state of the nation address (Sona) last week. “Competition merger agreements have provided for more fuel to be refined locally and more food to be bought from local farmers,” said the president, before going on to talk about hemp and cannabis.

Time was when one might have asked what local food or fuel production could possibly have to do with the competition authorities. But in SA nobody really asks that any more. Since Patel took over as the minister in charge of competition more than a dozen years ago he has made ever more use of the merger provisions in the legislation to drive industrial policy and broader political objectives. And he has given himself ever more power to do so, broadening the scope of the public interest criteria and cementing the minister’s right to intervene...

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