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Virgin Asks EU Court to Overturn IAG-BMI Merger Approval

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. is challenging the European Union’s decision to allow British Airways parent IAG to purchase BMI.

Virgin has asked the EU’s General Court, the 27-nation bloc’s second-highest tribunal, to overturn the European Commission’s approval for the deal, the Luxembourg-based EU court’s press office said today.

IAG, formally known as International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, won EU antitrust approval March 30 to purchase BMI from Deutsche Lufthansa AG, a move that strengthened British Airways’ position at London’s Heathrow Airport. Richard Branson, Virgin’s billionaire owner, said in April that he would challenge the deal because it allowed British Airways “to become even more bloated.”

While Virgin, based in Crawley, England, plans to bid on all 12 of the take-off and landing slots that British Airways has been told to give up as part of the merger’s approval, Branson said that won’t ensure adequate competition.

The court can annul regulatory approval for the deal and require antitrust officials to re-examine it. Independent record labels successfully appealed the EU’s 2004 approval for Sony and Bertelsmann AG to create the Sony BNG record label at the EU courts, forcing a second review by regulators that eventually approved it again. Cisco Systems Inc. is currently challenging regulators’ decision to approve Microsoft Corp.’s $8.5 billion takeover of Skype Technologies SA.

Decisions by the General Court can be challenged at the EU Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest court.

The case is: T-344/12 - Virgin Atlantic Airways v. Commission.

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