Commission looks into three big mergers over alleged breach of rules

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager was back in action today, announcing a probe into three top-level mergers. [European Commission]

The Commission is looking into three separate merger cases involving Merck, General Electric and Canon, based on suspicions they flouted EU rules by withholding vital information or using intermediaries, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Thursday (6 July).

All three mergers – Merck and Sigma-Aldrich; General Electric and LM Wind; and Canon and Toshiba Medical Systems – have already been cleared.

If the probes confirm the rules have been breached, the Commission may impose fines on the companies involved but the mergers will remain effective, the EU executive said.

“We can only do our job well if we can rely on cooperation from the companies concerned – they must obtain our approval before they implement their transactions and the information they supply us must be correct and complete,” the Commissioner told reporters.

The Commission believes Merck had provided “incorrect or misleading information” when applying for a merger approval with Sigma-Aldrich, by failing to provide the Commission “with important information about an innovation project with relevance for certain laboratory chemicals at the core of the Commission’s analysis.”

If the breach is confirmed, the Commission could impose a fine of up to 1% of the two companies’ annual worldwide turnover.

Merck confirmed that it had received the Commission’s statement of objections and added that it will need time to review them. The group insists the issue will be resolved “in a satisfactory manner”.

In the case of General Electric and LM Wind, a major supplier of rotor blades for the wind industry, the Commission said GE had not provided information about its research and development activities and the development of a specific product.  If confirmed, a fine of up to 1% of GE’s annual worldwide turnover could be levied.

GE said in a statement that: “We believe we acted in good faith to meet the EC disclosure requirements and there was no intent to mislead.”

In the Canon-Toshiba Medical Systems case, the Commission said Canon had used “the so-called ‘warehousing’ two-step transaction structure involving an interim buyer, which essentially allowed it to acquire Toshiba Medical Systems prior to obtaining the relevant merger approvals”.

The fine, if applied, could amount to up to 10% of Canon’s annual worldwide turnover.

In June, the Commission fined Google a record-high €2.42 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules by using its dominant market position to promote its own comparison shopping service at the expense of rivals.

Commission slaps record €2.4 bln anti-trust fine on Google

The European Commission fined Google a record-high €2.42 billion on Tuesday (27 June) for breaching EU antitrust rules by using its dominant market position to promote its own comparison shopping service at the expense of rivals.


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