The Competition Act 2002 governs mergers, acquisitions, and amalgamations to prevent anti-competitive practices and ensure fair competition. 

Traditionally, the Competition Act uses asset and turnover thresholds to determine if a transaction needs to be notified to the Competition Commission of India (CCI). 

However, this approach has faced criticism, especially with the advent of digital markets where high-value transactions may involve companies with low tangible assets or revenue, potentially escaping regulatory scrutiny.

To address this gap, the Indian government introduced the concept of “deal value thresholds” (DVTs) through the Competition (Amendment) Act 2023. 

So what are DVTs? Put Simply, DVTs require transactions above a certain deal value to be notified to the CCI, regardless of the asset or turnover of the companies involved. 

This aims to capture high-value transactions in the digital and other sectors, where companies like startups might have high valuations due to data or intellectual property but low traditional financial metrics.

Implications for Digital Markets

The introduction of DVTs holds significant implications for digital markets. It would lead to increased scrutiny —High-value acquisitions, especially involving startups or tech firms with valuable data or IP, will be scrutinized to prevent monopolistic practices.

The introduction of DVTs also ensures level playing field. Smaller but highly valued companies will be subject to regulatory checks, ensuring that larger firms cannot bypass competition laws by acquiring emerging competitors.

The other implication is on Market Dynamics. Investors and companies might adjust their strategies, considering the additional regulatory requirements and potential delays in deal finalizations.

Utility of Deal Value Thresholds

DVTs can help capture High-Value Transactions: By focusing on deal value, the CCI can better oversee mergers and acquisitions that might affect market competition, regardless of traditional financial metrics.

DVTs can help in Future-Proofing Regulation. As digital and tech markets evolve, DVTs offer a flexible mechanism to adapt to new business models and market structures.

DVTs also encourage innovation. By ensuring that competitive dynamics are preserved, DVTs can foster an environment where innovation thrives without the fear of monopolistic dominance.

Challenges in Implementation

Defining Deal Value: Accurately assessing the deal value, especially in complex transactions involving stock options, earn-outs, or multi-stage investments, can be challenging.

Legal Uncertainty: Implementing DVTs might lead to legal ambiguities and disputes over valuation methods, necessitating clear guidelines and robust frameworks.

Market Reaction: Businesses might find ways to structure deals to avoid crossing the threshold, potentially complicating regulatory efforts.

While DVTs offer substantial benefits in capturing high-value, low-revenue transactions and preserving competitive market dynamics, their implementation poses challenges. 

Addressing these effectively will require clear guidelines, enhanced regulatory capacity, and continuous dialogue with industry stakeholders to ensure that the objectives of fair competition and market innovation are met.

So what are the unresolved issues and concerns around introduction of DVTs? When do the DVTs specified in the Competition law go live in the country?

What other implications would this move have for oversight of digital markets in India? Does DVT have implications for other sectors too?

To get a deep dive into world of DVTs, Listen in to the BL State of Economy Podcast with Dinoo Muthappa, Partner at Delhi Office of law firm Talwar, Thakore & Associates (TTA)

Host: Srivats KR, Producers: Rowan Barnett, Siddharth Mathew Cherian

About the State of the Economy podcast 

India’s economy has been hailed as a bright spot amid the general gloom that seems to have enveloped the rest of the world. But several sectors continue to stutter even as others seem set to fire on all cylinders. To help you make sense of the bundle of contradictions that the country is, businessline brings you podcasts with experts ranging from finance and marketing to technology and start-ups.