LONDON (ICIS)--The European Commission on Monday opened an “in-depth” investigation into the proposed acquisition of Solvay’s global nylon business by BASF under the EU merger regulation.
The EU's executive body said that it was “concerned that the merger may reduce competition in the supply of key inputs" in the European nylon production chain.
It added that it was particularly concerned the transaction could lead to higher prices due to the increased market power of the merged entity.
BASF announced in September 2017 it was aiming to acquire the Belgian chemical major’s integrated polyamide business for €1.6bn, and was aiming to close the transaction in the third quarter of this year.
"Nylon is used in everyday products like clothes, sports shoes and carpets. But it's also an important industrial input, for example contributing to make lighter engines and cars,” said Margrethe Vestager, the competition Commissioner.
“However, only a few manufacturers provide essential inputs to produce different nylon products, so we need to carefully assess whether the proposed acquisition would lead to higher prices or less choice for European businesses and, ultimately, consumers.”
According to the Commission, the resulting entity post-transaction would have a market size "almost double" that of the closest competitor, as well as control substantial parts of the merchant markets and of the production capacities at all levels of the nylon production chain.
"Moreover, no other player would be similarly fully integrated in the production chain. Competitors will thus depend on the merged entity to continue to supply them with one or more essential inputs," it said.
"In addition, there is no indication that competition could be preserved by new entrants, since access to essential inputs (such as ADN [adiponitrile, a feedstock for nylon production]) is limited and critical to be able to compete effectively."
A spokesperson for BASF said that the company will work closely with the Commission to explain the rationale of the planned acquisition.
“The EU Commission will gather and evaluate more data during this in-depth investigation which follows a transparent and established procedure ('Phase II'),” the spokesperson said.
"This procedure will initially take 90 working days and consequently delay the closing date of the transaction.”
The spokesperson added that the transaction has already obtained clearance from eight out of ten jurisdictions so far.
Solvay also told ICIS that it will continue constructive discussions with the European Commission with a view to gaining clearance in by the fourth quarter of 2018.
The Commission has until 31 October to make a decision on its investigation.
(Update adds BASF and Solvay comments in paragraphs 10-14)
Picture source: John Pulsipher/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock