EC to put takeover ball back in Spanish court

15 November 2005 - European Union competition commissioner Neelie Kroes is expected to today refer the proposed €22.5bn ($26.3bn) takeover of Spanish energy group Endesa by Gas Natural to Spain's competition authorities

The Commission has found that neither of the two groups reports more than a third of its European turnover outside Spain, the threshold above which a deal falls under the scrutiny of the European Commission.

Gas Natural had argued that Endesa's petition to Brussels to review the case was unwarranted and designed to delay a final decision about whether the hostile takeover would distort competition in the home market. Gas Natural has agreed to sell up to €9bn in assets to Iberdrola, Spain's second-biggest generator in an attempt to allay concerns over market domination.

A link-up between Gas Natural and Endesa would raise concerns about increased market share, vertical integration between Spain's main gas supplier and largest generator, and gas and electricity transport monopolies in some regions of the country.

The deal has been approved by the National Energy Commission, which is concerned mainly with whether the combined group would be able to meet supply contracts with households and businesses.

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