Monday, September 29, 2003

Antitrust News: A Battle of Steel Wills

The Washington Times' editorial page has discovered a potential barrier to economic efficiency--antitrust:
Steel analysts agree that consolidation can only help a global market burdened with oversupply. Anti-trust regulators could differ with this consensus, however, to the detriment of the U.S. steel industry. Consolidation cops have an undistinguished record on blocking steel mergers, such as preventing U.S. Steel's attempt to buy National Steel in 1994.

In the coal industry, there has been more recent evidence of overzealous anti-trust policing that analysts say augurs badly for future steel mergers, with the Federal Trade Commission giving Arch Coal a second information request on its bid to buy Triton Coal. "This is a review," said Merrill Lynch metals analyst Dan Rolling, "that should have taken five minutes," since there is a gross overabundance of coal. Instead, regulators are effectively suspending a merger that should have gotten speedy approval.
Just a few months ago, the Times' editors were chomping at the bit to subject Major League Baseball to antitrust prosecution because owners wouldn't relocate the Expos to Washington, DC. And the Times, like most major media outlets, provided no substantial coverage or scruting of the Bush administration's antitrust misdeeds in other industries. Still, the Times' comments are welcome here, if only because it demonstrates not all conservatives consider antitrust an enlightened form of government intervention.

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