EU Again Halts Work on Boeing-Embraer Merger Probe

 - January 23, 2020, 11:55 AM

The European Commission has again paused its review of Boeing’s proposed acquisition of 80 percent of Embraer’s commercial aircraft division, less than three weeks after resuming work on the in-depth probe. This marks the second time the European Union’s antitrust regulator “stopped the clock” on the investigation of the proposed transaction, which most other competition authorities across the world have cleared. The deal needs approval from competition authorities in nine countries.

Seven jurisdictions—U.S., China, Japan, South Africa, Kenya, Colombia, and Montenegro—have endorsed the tie-up, without demanding changes to the deal. Boeing and Embraer expect Brazil to approve the deal soon, a person familiar with the discussions told AIN, pointing out that the delay stems from administrative matters, and not owing to competition concerns.

“We continue to cooperate with the European Commission as it assesses our transaction and look forward to a positive resolution,” Boeing and Embraer said in an emailed statement. The airframers noted they “have been engaged with the European Commission and other global regulatory authorities since late 2018” and received unconditional clearance to close the transaction from “almost all jurisdictions.”

“The Commission has stopped the clock in its in-depth investigation into the joint ventures proposed by Boeing and Embraer,” a Commission spokesperson told AIN, confirming a report first published by Bloomberg. “This procedure in merger investigations is activated if the parties fail to provide, in a timely fashion, important information that the commission has requested from them,” she said, without giving details on which information the parties failed to hand over.

Boeing and Embraer pre-notified the EU of their plan to combine their commercial aviation activities in April 2018 and formally notified it of the deal in August 2019. By the end last year, the Commission’s competition division has requested more than 1.5 million pages of documentation and data on 1,200 sales campaigns over the past 20 years, sources familiar with the case told AIN in December, describing the information request as “very voluminous” and representing a multitude of the documentation requested and analyzed by the other regulators that scrutinized the proposed transaction.

The European Commission’s website shows that the new suspension dates from January 21. It enacted the first stop the clock procedure in November and it resumed the investigation on January 6, setting April 30 as a decision deadline. The new deadline remains unclear. “Once the missing information is supplied by the parties, the clock is restarted and the deadline for the Commission’s decision is then adjusted accordingly,” the spokesperson noted.