August 2022 | Publication

Amazon’s Antitrust Vulnerability: Unexamined Cross-Holdings

Introduction

Amazon’s minority ownership in at least 20 other publicly traded companies represents a significant vulnerability with U.S. antitrust regulators committed to addressing impediments to competition.  Within these cross-holdings, Amazon’s use of warrant agreements appears to enable the company to significantly influence business partner operations while avoiding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) merger review.  “The Everything Store’s” positions in air cargo, energy, financial services, grocery, logistics, semiconductor, and smart home companies, among others, reveal intentions distinct from the typical institutional investor, with investees utilized more as subsidiaries than growth assets.  Notably, the recently announced acquisition of Amazon portfolio holding Atlas Air ($AAWW) by a consortium of private equity firms led by Apollo Management Group is likely to catalyze policy makers’ scrutiny of Amazon’s relationships with such companies, especially the aviation contractors to Amazon Air.  With antitrust thought leaders already exploring the effects of partial ownership by institutional investors, Washington appears predisposed to view Amazon’s cross-holdings strategy as gratuitously anticompetitive.

 

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