Schibsted has rebuffed an order from the Norwegian Competition Tribunal to sell its stake in Nettbil, the Norway-based automotive marketplace. The company moved forward with integrating Nettbil into its operations at the end of last year and has refused to sell its shares.
When Schibsted purchased Nettbil from Aller Group and investment company Tjuvholmen Ventures in 2019, it failed to inform the country’s competition authority about the deal. Schibsted says that the deal was clearly under the revenue threshold required to notify the Authority and that it didn’t see Nettbil as a competitor to its own marketplace, Finn.no.
But after the Competition Authority found out about the acquisition in March 2020, it used its power to make Schibsted report it. It then demanded that Schibsted divest itself from Nettbil, claiming that the deal diminishes competition in the marketplace segment for cars. The action was also part of European competition authorities’ efforts to crack down on online platforms.
However, Schibsted declined to do so and moved forward with integrating Nettbil into its accounting. Eirik Håstein, a product director at Finn.no, also serves on Nettbil’s board. The competition authority has until the end of May to respond to Schibsted’s move.
Schibsted also seems to be working on an escape plan. The company recently launched Nettbil clone in Sweden called Bily. The site, which both operates on the same c-to-b model and looks similar to Nettbil, was started from scratch and therefore doesn’t fall under the purview of the competition authority.
At Schibsted’s Captial Markets Day on Thursday, the company reported strong results for its digital newspaper subscriptions segment, while showing minor setbacks in its marketplaces division. Somewhat surprisingly, the topic of the Nettbil acquisition was never broached — not by Schibsted and not by analysts during the q-and-a section.