Ardagh Asset Sale Hasn’t Satisfied Concerns, U.S. Says

Ardagh Group SA’s plan to sell plants as part of its $1.7 billion acquisition of Verallia North America from Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA wasn’t enough to satisfy U.S. regulators opposed to the deal.

The Federal Trade Commission, which claims the Verallia purchase would reduce competition in the market for beer and liquor bottles, needs more information to evaluate the effect of the plant sale, Ted Hassi, a lawyer for the agency, said at a hearing today in federal court in Washington.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions that can’t be answered here,” he said. The government needs to know the identity of the buyer, he said. “We need to know what we’re shooting at.”

Ardagh said in a statement Sept. 20 that it was selling four glass-container manufacturing plants as a standalone business to a single buyer and that it was negotiating with “a number” of possible purchasers. The Verallia acquisition will “more than overcome any possible regulatory concerns” with the plant sale, it said.

Richard Schwed, an attorney for Luxembourg-based Ardagh, said at today’s hearing that the FTC has gone “radio silent” on the proposal to sell the plants.

The FTC filed an administrative complaint against Ardagh and Courbevoie, France-based Saint-Gobain this year and is seeking an order from U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein to block the deal. Rothstein urged both sides to talk about Ardagh’s plant divestiture.

The case is U.S. Federal Trade Commission v. Ardagh Group SA, 13-cv-01021, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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