United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) may make an offer to resolve competition concerns set out by European Union regulators over its plan to buy TNT Express NV (TNTE) once it sees a formal complaint on the deal from the EU, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The world’s biggest package-delivery company will get a so- called statement of objections from the European Commission listing possible antitrust obstacles with the deal, the two people said. The objections may be sent as soon as next week after officials meet with UPS, said one of the people who asked not to be identified because the merger-review process is private.
UPS hasn’t yet made a formal offer to address EU concerns. Companies often propose to sell units or change the way they do business to eliminate antitrust worries over deals that may restrict competition.
UPS agreed in March to buy TNT for 5.16 billion euros ($6.6 billion) or 9.5 euros a share in cash. The transaction will help it expand in Europe and vault to equal footing there with Deutsche Post AG (DPW)’s DHL, the market-share leader. The tie-up with money-losing TNT will immediately add to earnings on an adjusted basis once the deal is done, Atlanta-based UPS said at the time.
Peggy Gardner, a spokeswoman for UPS in Atlanta, said the company is in talks with the Brussels-based commission and that regulators will determine the next steps of the review.
Four to Three
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Oct. 2 that the UPS deal would reduce from four to three the number of companies that control pan-European parcel-transport networks. Regulators would analyze whether the combined firm would be “challenged enough” by DHL and FedEx Corp. (FDX), he said.
“These companies offer a service that has a broad impact on our economy, especially for cross-border trade, so it is important that customers continue to have access to these services at competitive conditions,” Almunia said in the speech in Nicosia.
Almunia said last month that it was “possible” that the EU would send a statement of objections on the deal.
TNT Express spokesman Ernst Moeksis said in an e-mail today that all questions about a statement of objections must be answered by the commission.
“UPS and TNT Express will continue the dialogue with the commission,” he said. The two companies “remain confident they will receive clearance for the proposed acquisition.”
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission in Brussels, declined to comment.
The EU in July cited potential competition concerns for small parcel delivery services, in particular international express services, in several European countries where the companies would have very high combined market shares.
UPS hasn’t made any public statement over selling any business units to eliminate antitrust concerns.
“UPS would want to get rid of their own domestic operation in the U.K., because it’s far weaker than TNT’s,” said Joel Ray, an analyst at Brinkworth, England-based Transport Intelligence.
“The problem is that Almunia has provided no definition of what a small parcel should be, whether it’s less than 1kg or 5kg. But there are domestic markets where one company is bigger than the other that they’ll be happier to shed assets.”
The Financial Times reported the commission plan earlier today.
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