Court backs EC over Huber-Omya PCC merger dispute

04 February 2009 12:27  [Source: ICIS news]

PARIS (ICIS news)--The European Commission was correct to suspend its 2006 investigation of the merger case between industrial mineral producers Omya and JM Huber, the European Court of First Instance ruled on Wednesday.

The case was originally referred to the Commission for investigation in 2005 by the Finnish competition authority, which considered the proposed transaction liable to affect trade between member states and have an adverse impact on competition.

During its investigation, the Commission established a mineral shipment database, but difficulties in obtaining the necessary data forced Brussels to suspend the investigation – so-called “stopping the clock” – until the information was submitted, as is allowed under EU merger regulations.

The court said the Commission had been right in March 2006 to suspend the investigation until all parties had submitted the information required to approve the acquisition.

It rejected claims by Swiss-based Omya that the Commission had failed to comply with the necessary conditions, had misused its powers and infringed Omya's legitimate expectations.

The Commission welcomed the court's judgment.

It said the decision was “important for an effective assessment of mergers and takeovers” and confirmed that it was “fully entitled to…obtain all information necessary to make an informed decision on whether a given concentration is liable to adversely affect competition within the single market”.

The Commission approved the acquisition of US-based JM Huber’s precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) business by Omya, subject to certain conditions, in July 2006.

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By: Philippa Jones
+44 20 8652 3214

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