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Brussels clears €2.9bn satnav merger

15 мая 2008

European antitrust regulators on Wednesday cleared a €2.9bn ($4.5bn) merger between TomTom, the world’s biggest manufacturer of car navigation devices, and TeleAtlas, which provides navigable digital maps.

Lawyers said the decision, and the reasoning provided, improved the chances that a larger $8.1bn deal between Nokia and Navteq – which is also under investigation by Brussels – would also surmount regulatory hurdles.

They also suggested the TomTom-TeleAtlas result underlined the reluctance of the European competition authorities to block merger deals, particularly in areas where technologies were evolving quickly.

Navteq and TeleAtlas are the only two companies which provide navigable digital maps which offer complete coverage of Europe and North America. Such maps are essential to satellite navigation devices.

Clearance of the TomTom/TeleAtlas deal follows a full merger investigation by Europe’s competition authorities and, although a green light had been widely predicted, the go-ahead came without the European Commission requiring any formal conditions as part of the clearance decision.

Instead, Neelie Kroes, competition commissioner, said she was satisfied that “the innovation and competition we have seen in satnavs until now will continue after this merger and that consumers will continue to benefit from new and innovative products”. The Commission said that it had looked into whether the merged entity would either increase the cost of maps for other satnav manufacturers or limit their access to the maps.

But it concluded that the merged group would be “unlikely to pursue these strategies” because its ability to restrict access to maps would be limited by Navteq’s presence.

Also, lost sales of digital maps by TeleAtlas would not be compensated by additional satnav sales.

The Commission said only that the Nokia/Navteq inquiry was ongoing. But David Strang, competition partner at law firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, said he believed it would be “very difficult to clear this and block the other deal”.

“One would think that the rationale would be similar,” he added.

Источник: Financial Times

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