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EU Court Adviser Criticizes Antitrust Regulators Over Illumina-Grail Deal

 |  March 21, 2024

An adviser to Europe’s highest court rebuked their actions in blocking U.S. gene sequencing company Illumina’s $7.1 billion bid for Grail. The adviser’s opinion, if endorsed by judges, could impact the scrutiny of other merger deals, including one involving U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm, where innovation concerns loom large.

The European Commission’s intervention in the Illumina-Grail deal, utilizing a rarely employed power under Article 22, attracted controversy as it fell below the EU merger revenue threshold. Despite this, the Commission asserted its authority following requests from multiple EU member states. Subsequently, the Commission vetoed the transaction and instructed Illumina to reverse the completed deal pending regulatory approval, reported Reuters. 

Challenges ensued, with Illumina contesting the Commission’s decision on various grounds. A lower tribunal initially sided with the EU competition enforcer. However, Advocate General Nicholas Emiliou of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) criticized the General Court’s judgment, arguing that it had misinterpreted Article 22. Emiliou recommended overturning the General Court’s decision and annulling the Commission’s rulings on member states’ review requests.

Related: EU Blocks Illumina’s Deal To Buy Grail On Antitrust Grounds

The case has broader implications, particularly regarding the Commission’s approach to assessing mergers with innovation implications. The outcome could reshape the regulatory landscape for future deals, potentially altering the dynamics of cross-border mergers and acquisitions within the EU.

The European Commission’s role in regulating such transactions has faced increasing scrutiny, particularly concerning its handling of deals involving non-EU entities. The latest development underscores the need for clearer guidelines and more precise delineation of the Commission’s powers to ensure a fair and transparent regulatory environment conducive to innovation and competition.

As the CJEU deliberates on Emiliou’s recommendations, stakeholders await eagerly to see whether his critique will reshape the EU’s antitrust regime and impact future merger assessments.

Source: Reuters