SA’s competition law underwent a health check at a recent seminar hosted by law firm Bowmans in Sandton. Participants debated the extent to which public interest should be weighed against pure economic gain in mergers and acquisitions. The result: the verdict is still out. Lawyers and economic development minister Ebrahim Patel, whose department oversees the country’s competition authorities, met head to head during the panel discussions. Patel says competition law is one of the fastest-growing areas of the SA economy. Derek Lötter, head of Bowmans’ competition practice, says the minister is well known for using mergers and acquisitions for public policy purposes — especially regarding social inequality and the interests of workers. Patel threw down the gauntlet to the legal profession, saying that while competition policy is traditionally used to strengthen competition in economies, he has heard it described as a way for the legal fraternity to boost billable hours.Recent multibill...

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