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GN Loses $1.4 Bln Lawsuit Over Germany’s Unit Sale Veto

Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- GN Store Nord A/S lost its 1.1 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) lawsuit against a German regulator that in 2007 blocked the planned sale of its hearing-aid unit to Sonova Holding AG.

The Cologne Regional Court Presiding Judge Reinhold Becker said today the regulator didn’t act negligently. Ballerup, Denmark-based GN had sued the Federal Cartel Office, Germany’s antitrust regulator, to claim damages it said were incurred by the regulator’s decision to veto the sale of its ReSound unit.

“As long as the decision is within the limits of what’s reasonable, it cannot be said the regulator acted negligently,” Becker said. “And without that, you cannot claim damages, that’s a principle as old as our civil code.”

The company got the veto of the sale of ReSound overturned in Germany’s highest court in 2010. The Cartel Office said in 2007 that the purchase of ReSound would harm competition because Sonova, Danish competitor William Demant A/S and Germany’s Siemens AG controlled about 80 percent of the German market. The takeover would have pushed that figure to 90 percent.

Today’s case is the first in Germany to try to hold the agency responsible for wrongfully blocking a transaction. GN said it will review the written judgment before deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Sonova and GN dropped the 15.5 billion-kroner ($2.7 billion) transaction after losing a lower court challenge to the veto. GN has said it pursued the appeal to the top court to open up the hearing-aid industry to mergers.

GN fell 1 percent to 103.4 kroner at 2:02 p.m. in Copenhagen trading after declining as much as 2.3 percent

Today’s case is LG Koeln, 5 O 86/12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Cologne court via kmatussek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Scinta at cscinta@bloomberg.net

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