EU Says DowDuPont Approval “Still Open”

10.01.2017 -

Following a Jan. 9 meeting between would-be merger partners Dow Chemical and DuPont, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the outcome of the regulatory authority’s in-depth probe “is still very much open.”

The news agency Bloomberg called the meeting a last effort by the two chemical giants to get the merger approved in the important European market. At the closed-door hearing in Brussels, attended by representatives of BASF and agriculture and biotech trade groups, it said Dow and DuPont defended themselves against objections, adding that the ball is now in the EU’s court to give feedback on any remaining concerns and offer further concessions.

Without providing details of the meeting, a spokesperson for Dow said the company is “continuing to work constructively” with the European Commission and all other relevant regulatory authorities to address their questions and to obtain clearance for the merger.

Dow and DuPont reportedly offered concessions at a July 2016 meeting with EU authorities, but the antitrust officials said these were insufficient to dismiss "serious doubts" about the deal. A deadline for completing the merger was pushed back from the original target of the end of 2016 after the EU twice suspended the review, saying it had not been provided with sufficient information.

The Commission is simultaneously reviewing the merger plans of Switzerland’s Syngenta with ChemChina and has repeatedly expressed concern about increasing concentration in an already highly concentrated agrochemical industry. “Farmers need to have a choice of seeds and crop-protection products,” Vestager told Bloomberg TV.

The commissioner called the Swiss-Chinese transaction a “very different deal,” which also shows the importance of research to develop new products. “Farmers need innovation as well in these products and that would be something that we will be discussing with the companies moving forward,” she said.

Bayer’s plans to acquire US rival Monsanto, another agriculture giant, have not yet been submitted to the EU for approval.