On 27 May 2024, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) gave the green light for Johnson & Johnson’s (“J&J”) 13.1 billion US dollar acquisition of Shockwave Medical (“Shockwave”).[1]  The decision follows an in-depth investigation into the acquisition’s potential impact on competition and innovation, particularly in the burgeoning field of cardiovascular disease treatment, one of the fastest‑growing global med-tech markets.


Shockwave Medical, based in Santa Clara, USA, has been at the forefront of developing technologies aimed at the minimally invasive treatment of calcified arterial lesions, a common issue for arteriosclerosis patients.  Their innovative approach involves intravascular lithotripsy (“IVL”), which utilizes sonic pressure waves, similar to ultrasound, to treat these conditions.  Additionally, Shockwave has been instrumental in creating coronary sinus reducers for the treatment of refractory angina pectoris (tightness and pain in the chest), a condition that can usually not be adequately managed by conventional treatments.

The acquisition is set to expand J&J’s substantial portfolio in the medical technology realm which already includes cardiovascular medical technology, such as Impella heart pumps and devices for arrhythmia treatment.

FCO Decision

While Shockwave’s turnover did not meet the turnover thresholds of German merger control, the FCO established jurisdiction based on the so-called “transaction value threshold”.  It allows the FCO to scrutinize acquisitions where the purchase price exceeds EUR 400 million even if the target’s domestic turnover is minimal at the time of the transaction.  The provision is particularly relevant for highly research-driven companies and newcomers with significant growth potential.

Andreas Mundt, President of the FCO, emphasized the importance of scrutinizing such acquisitions, in particular, if they involve the multi-billion dollar acquisition of an innovative company like Shockwave Medical by one of the largest pharmaceutical and medical technology companies in the world.  The FCO’s primary concern was to ensure that competition based on medical and technological innovation was maintained, which played a vital role for patient well-being.

In its in-depth investigation, the FCO concluded that there were no direct overlaps or other adverse effects on competition.  The technologies used in Shockwave’s devices competed only to a limited extent with drug therapies and other medical technology methods used for preventing or removing plaque or calcification, in particular, in the coronary arteries.  J&J’s cardiovascular medical technology did not include products that could be used for a purpose comparable to that of Shockwave’s devices.


The FCO’s approval of J&J’s acquisition of Shockwave Medical demonstrates the delicate balance between encouraging innovation and preserving competitive markets.  Under the transaction value thresholds, the FCO closely examines the market potential.  If the parties’ product portfolios are sufficiently complementary, there is a real possibility of unconditional clearance even in scenarios explicitly targeted by this provision, i.e., the acquisition of an innovative newcomer by a well-established large global player.

*             Philipp Kirst and Susanne A. Zimmermann are the editors of this article.

[1]              See the FCO’s Press Release of May 27, 2024 available in English here