Veolia Gets Five Days to Avoid In-Depth U.K. Probe Over Suez
Veolia Environnement SA was given five days by the U.K. antitrust regulator to address competition concerns about its bid to take over French water and waste-treatment rival Suez SA or face an in-depth investigation.
The Competition and Markets Authority said Tuesday that the deal could lead to a loss of competition in the supply of several waste and water-management services in the U.K. The regulator said it had received a number of complaints from customers during its initial probe.
“The CMA is concerned that Veolia and Suez are two of only a small number of suppliers active within the U.K. that are able to service the largest and most complex waste management contracts with councils,” the regulator said. “As a result, the merger could lead to higher prices and lower quality services.”
Veolia was expecting U.K. authorities to request some measures to address antitrust concerns, Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot said last month.
The company “remains convinced that the combination with Suez can be carried out under conditions that allow healthy competition to be maintained in the U.K. market,” Veolia said in a statement Tuesday. It will study “in the next few days a set of remedies that would reassure the British authority.”
Veolia and Suez have until Dec. 14 to submit proposals to address the competition concerns, the CMA said. If suitable proposals are not submitted, the deal will be referred for an in-depth “phase two” investigation, according to the regulator.
The deadline coincides with the end of the initial review of the transaction by the European Union competition authority. In the EU, Veolia may have to offer “a few” measures in industrial water and in hazardous waste treatment. Most of the overlaps between the companies have been addressed by the planned sale of some Suez assets to an investor group led by Meridiam SAS and Global Infrastructure Partners.
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