The Office of Fair Trading has referred Stena’s acquisition of two Irish ferry services to the Competition Commission.
Stena completed the takeover of the Liverpool-Belfast and Heysham-Belfast services on 1st December 2010. Stena announced that it was closing its competing Fleetwood-Larne route the next day.
As a result, the OFT said it had concluded that the acquisition had created a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in the supply of ferry services for freight from the north west of England to Northern Ireland.
OFT chief economist Amelia Fletcher said: “Ferry services between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are important for UK freight customers on both sides of the Irish Sea. In this case, it was not possible for us to be confident that the closure of Fleetwood-Larne could be disassociated from the merger in a market that was already highly concentrated. Prior to its closure, Stena’s Fleetwood-Larne service was competing head-to-head with the routes that Stena has now acquired and customers were benefiting from that competition.”