EU antitrust watchdogs to have more say over tech, pharma, biotech start-up deals

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators are set to have more say over small merger deals involving start-ups in the technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, the EU enforcer said on Friday, in a warning to big companies eyeing such deals.

The move comes amid regulatory concerns on both sides of the Atlantic that a buying spree of start-ups by big companies, which do not trigger competition scrutiny because of the low value of the deal, may be so-called killer acquisitions.

This refers to a company buying a potential rival still in a nascent stage with the aim of shutting it down.

Critics have often cited the hundreds of small companies acquired by Alphabet’s Google and Facebook in recent years while supporters say such deals provide the money and resources to help start-ups to grow.

The European Commission said it wants national competition watchdogs to refer more small deals to the EU enforcer.

“A more frequent use of the existing tool of referrals under Article 22 of the Merger Regulation can help us capture concentrations which may have a significant impact on competition in the internal market,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The Commission cited recent deals in the digital, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and certain industrial sectors which had escaped regulatory scrutiny.

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