NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mergers Prevented By European Competition (Antitrust) Commissioner

June 19, 2001

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) aren't the only entities that must give the thumbs up to proposed corporate mergers. European officials are now involved in a major way in annulling marriages between U.S. companies.

What's more, U.S. competitors of companies wishing to merge are increasingly using the European connection to help nix the deals -- since they are less permissive than U.S. officials.

Generally, an American merger that would result in a company with more than $225 million in annual revenues outside the U.S. falls under the jurisdiction of the European competition commissioner.

  • When General Electric proposed to acquire Honeywell International, G.E. competitors, including United Technologies and Rockwell International, took the lead in lobbying European regulators to block the transaction -- despite U.S. government approval.
  • Other American companies, like Disney and Sun Microsystems, have pressed the Europeans to investigate mergers and other possibly anticompetitive practices of their domestic rivals.
  • Complaints by Advanced Micro Devices helped persuade the Europeans to investigate the marketing practices of rival Intel.
  • GTE successfully convinced the European Commission to prohibit a company that would have been formed by the purchase of Sprint by WorldCom from doing business in Europe.

And American companies may now be even more likely to take their complaints of unfair competition to European officials, executives and lawyers say, because of their perception that under President Bush, the Justice Department and the FTC are less likely to press antitrust issues than in the Clinton administration.

Source: Andrew Ross Sorkin, "U.S. Businesses Often Turn to Europe for Antitrust Help," New York Times, June 19, 2001.


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