On January 9, 2023, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) opened an in-depth (“Phase 2”) investigation into the proposed creation, by Aéroports de Paris (“ADP”) and British caterer Select Service Partner (“SSP”), of a full-function joint venture for the operation of catering services at Paris-Orly and Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airports.[1]

ADP is the state-owned operator of the three main Paris airports, where it operated various airport infrastructures, including retail shops and restaurants. In particular, ADP is active in the provision of food catering services at Orly airport through its subsidiary Extime Food & Beverages Paris (“Extime”). SSP is a multinational group active in concession food services and typically operates in airports, train stations, shopping malls, museums and other similar venues. In France, SSP is present in several airports (Marseille, Nice, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly), train stations (Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse) and motorway service areas, as well as in the Paris underground.

In 2021, ADP issued a call for tenders in view of finding a suitable co-shareholder for Extime, which led to the selection of SSP on October 25. The rationale of this proposed transaction was to allow ADP to “strengthen its integrated model and unite the commercial offer across its terminals”.[2] In this respect, in 2016, ADP and SSP had already created a joint venture based on the same integrated model, EPIGO, which currently manages around 30 outlets in Paris airports.

The parties notified the FCA of the proposed joint venture on October 28, 2022.

Following its first phase examination of the transaction, the FCA has identified competition concerns in the market for concession food services and the market for the provision of commercial catering services in airports. Specifically, the FCA has noted that as a result of the transaction, Extime would manage, in the long term, almost all the food service areas in the two largest French airports, and is concerned that this leadership position may confer on SSP a significant competitive advantage in the national market for concession food services in airports, enabling SSP to systematically prevail in calls for tender issued by ADP or other French airports. Further, as regards the market for the provision of commercial catering services in airports, the FCA is concerned that the joint venture could ultimately have a virtual monopoly in Paris airports, presenting the risk of price increases and a decline in the quality and diversity of catering offerings.

In a statement published in reaction to the opening of the Phase 2 investigation, ADP noted that “the joint venture model is commonly used by many airports around the world, and [that] the Groupe ADP itself has been using it for more than a decade.”[3] It added that, during this second phase of the investigation, ADP and SSP would continue to provide the FCA with evidence showing the benefits of the transaction in terms of both price management and quality of service.

[1]      FCA Press Release, “Airport catering: the Autorité de la concurrence opens an in-depth examination in the context of the proposed creation of a joint venture by the Aéroport de Paris and Select Service Partner groups”, January 9, 2023, available at: https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/en/press-release/airport- catering-autorite-de-la-concurrence-opens-depth-examination-context-proposed

[2]      ADP Press Release, “Groupe ADP selects Select Service Partner (SSP) as joint venture partner to develop more than 100 food and beverage units at Paris airports”, October 25, 2021, available at: https://presse.groupeadp.fr/ssp-joint-venture/?lang=en

[3]      ADP Press Release, “Precisions Regarding Extime Food & Beverage Paris”, January 10, 2023, available at: https://presse.groupeadp.fr/extime-food-beverage- precisions/?lang=en