ACM conditionally clears acquisition of Iddink Group by Sanoma Learning

Publisher Sanoma Learning is allowed to acquire Iddink Group, a distributor of educational materials. Iddink Group also owns Magister, a learning management system (LMS) that many secondary schools in the Netherlands use. Sanoma Learning owns publisher Malmberg, a publisher of educational materials (including digital educational materials). The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has attached conditions to its clearance. These have to ensure that innovation is stimulated, but also that a level playing field for publishers continues to exist.

Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: “This acquisition takes place in a digitalizing market, where there is still a lot of room for innovation. Because many schools use Magister, this LMS plays a critical role in our educational system. Conditions regarding equal access to Magister ensure that the markets involved continue to work well for people and businesses.”

Access to Magister and its data

Schools are using more and more digital educational materials, and customized education is becoming increasingly important. According to the two merging companies, the acquisition will create opportunities to respond to these trends by enabling further innovation in the publishing and offering of digital educational materials. More than half of the secondary schools in the Netherlands use Magister as their e-learning portal. ACM wishes to prevent Malmberg’s competitors from having fewer opportunities to offer their educational materials to schools and students through Magister. Therefore, Malmberg’s competitors must be granted access to Magister under equal conditions as Malmberg. Also, they have to be granted access to Magister’s data in the same way as Malmberg does. They need this data to improve their products and services. Finally, Sanoma Learning must ensure that commercially sensitive information of competing publishers cannot reach Malmberg through Iddink. In this way, other publishers will continue to have the incentive to keep innovating.

What does ACM do with mergers and acquisitions?

ACM assesses in advance whether businesses that wish to join forces do not become too powerful. This has been laid down in the Dutch Competition Act. The objective of that act is to protect people and businesses against higher prices, lower quality, and/or reduced innovation.