SEARCH FINANCIAL SERVICES INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY SCIENCE INTERVIEWS

 

     

European Commission approves acquisition of Gemalto by Thales, subject to conditions

December 13, 2018

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Gemalto by Thales. The approval is conditional on the divestment of Thales' general purpose hardware security modules business.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The importance of data security solutions to protect critical social, commercial or personal information is increasing. Today's decision allows the creation of a strong European player in this market, while still ensuring that the merger will not prevent customers from continuing to enjoy fair prices and innovative products. This is because we have approved the deal subject to Thales' offer of a strong remedy that will fully preserve competition on this important market.”

Today's decision follows an in-depth investigation of the proposed acquisition of Gemalto by Thales. The proposed transaction would combine the activities of Thales and Gemalto in general purpose hardware security modules (HSMs). These data security products are dedicated hardware appliances running on encryption software to generate, protect, and manage encryption keys used to protect data in a secure tamper-resistant module.

Thales and Gemalto are the two largest manufacturers of general purpose HSMs, both in the European Economic Area (EEA) and at global level.

The Commission's investigation

The Commission's in-depth investigation looked into:

  •         the extent to which the companies are close competitors;
  •         the potential response of the merged entity's competitors; and
  •         the ability of software-based solutions to reach the same security level as HSMs, and therefore compete with the latter.

During its in-depth investigation, the Commission gathered extensive information and received feedback from customers and competitors of Thales and Gemalto, as well as from other stakeholders.

Following the in-depth investigation, the Commission found that there are distinct product markets for (i) general purpose HSMs and (ii) payment HSMs, which are used to secure payment processing operations. The two products have different hardware and software requirements and are generally used to secure different types of operations.

As regards general purpose HSMs, the Commission found that the proposed merger would lead to very high combined market shares and would eliminate the competitive constraints that Thales and Gemalto currently exercise on each other. The Commission also found that cloud service providers offering cloud-based HSMs do not provide a strong competitive constraint on the market today and are not expected to do so in the near future. As a result, by reducing the number of players in the general purpose HSM market and by lowering the merged entity's incentives to compete effectively, the transaction as notified was likely to lead to higher prices, less choice for customers and less innovation.

As regards payment HSMs, the Commission concluded that the proposed merger was unlikely to have an impact on the level of service or prices because Gemalto has a more limited role in the market. The Commission also found that the merged entity will continue to face significant competition from other players active in that market. 

The proposed remedies

To address the Commission's competition concerns, Thales offered to divest its global general purpose HSM business, marketed under the nShield brand, to a suitable purchaser, who will continue to develop the product. The purchase should have significant experience in a field closely related to HSMs and a good reputation among EEA customers.

The commitments fully remove the overlap between Thales' and Gemalto's activities on the market for general purpose HSMswhere the Commission had identified competition concerns.

Therefore, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The Commission's decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments.

Throughout its investigation, the Commission closely cooperated with other national competition authorities, in particular the US Department of Justice. 

Companies and products

Thales, based in France, is a global group that designs and builds electrical systems and is active in aeronautics, space, ground transportation, defence and security systems.

Gemalto, based in the Netherlands, is an international digital security company active, among others, in mobile embedded software & products, smart cards, machine to machine communication (Internet of Things) and enterprise security.

Merger control rules and procedures

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 18 June 2018.

Terms of Use | Copyright © 2002 - 2018 CONSTITUENTWORKS SM  CORPORATION. All rights reserved. | Privacy Statement