Western Digital Appeals Seagate Priority in EU Merger Probe

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Western Digital Corp. asked the European Union’s general court to overturn a regulator’s decision to give priority to a review of an acquisition by hard-disk storage industry rival Seagate Technology Plc.

Western Digital, based in Irvine, California, got an antitrust complaint from the European Commission last week listing potential competition problems with its planned purchase of Hitachi Ltd.’s storage unit. Being sent such a document doesn’t mean that the deal will be blocked.

Seagate said it didn’t expect to receive a similar complaint over its acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co.’s computer hard-disk drive operations. The Scotts Valley, California-based company notified its transaction to EU regulators for clearance a day before Western Digital.

The two deals would reduce the number of large manufacturers of mechanical hard-disk drives for computers to three from five, leaving Western Digital with 50 percent of the market, Seagate with 40 percent and Toshiba Corp. with around 10 percent, according to researcher IHS Inc.’s iSuppli.

The commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, opened in-depth probes in May, saying it would treat the Western Digital deal as taking place after the Seagate transaction. Each new deal shrinks the number of competitors in the market.

Western Digital said in a statement that the case was a procedural challenge.

Sequencing Issue

“We strongly believe that our transaction is pro-competitive and should be cleared and we hope that the commission’s position on sequencing will have no impact on its final assessment of our transaction,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We have taken the necessary steps before the General Court to protect our legal position, in case the sequencing issue were to play a decisive role in the decision-making process.”

The European Commission declined to comment. Western Digital filed the case on Aug. 8, according to an e-mail from the Luxembourg-based court’s press service.

The case is T-452/11, Western Digital and Western Digital Ireland v. European Commission.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net