Ever since Staples and Office Depot announced their plans to consolidate their businesses into one, U.S. regulators have been putting the two organizations through the ringer. However, the two companies may not have to look stateside for all their good news.
The European Commission announced Wednesday (Feb. 10) that it had issued a preliminary approval to the merger between Staples and Office Depot, pending certain conditions. Not only would Office Depot have to sell its contract distribution business across the entire continent, but the EC also pressed the office supply retailer to part entirely with its operations in Sweden. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager explained that these forced divestments will allow the merger to move forward without allowing the resultant conglomerate to fashion a monopoly.
"The substantial remedies package offered will ensure that effective competition is maintained, in particular on the EU's international office supplies market," Vestager said. "This will allow European companies to continue to benefit from the Single Market by procuring their office supplies internationally and to reduce costs."
With a semblance of approval in the EU, Staples and Office Depot can now turn their backs to the battle with the FTC that has kept them hung up on the merger for months. However, Ron Sargent, chairman and CEO of Staples, noted that the merger has been granted approval from several countries; it's just the U.S. that is dragging its feet.
“This is a significant step, and we’re very pleased that the European Commission has approved this transaction," Sargent said in a statement. "The acquisition has been approved in Australia, New Zealand, China and Europe. Regulatory agencies around the world understand that this acquisition will allow Staples to provide increased value and service to customers of all sizes. We look forward to a full, impartial judicial review in the United States.”