EU fights court defeat over ban on Hutchison-O2 merger deal

LUXEMBOURG • European Union (EU) regulators are challenging an EU court’s decision to topple their veto of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd’s bid for rival Telefonica UK Ltd or better known as O2, a ruling that could make it easier to get telecommunication deals past merger watchdogs.

The EU General Court’s ruling from May “raises important legal issues” including on the standard of proof and the value of the European Commission’s economic assessment, Arianna Podesta, a spokeswoman on antitrust matters, told reporters in Brussels yesterday.

Judges “made a number of errors of law” on these points, which the commission is now asking the EU’s top court to set aside, she said.

While the case is largely symbolic — the companies have expressed no plans to resurrect the deal — it is one of a growing number of challenges to the EU’s merger review process. Regulators wield huge power to extract concessions from companies under threat of blocking a transaction they see as harmful to competition and likely to increase prices for consumers. — Bloomberg