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Commission alleges Canon's Toshiba Medical acquisition breached EU rules

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Canon stock plunged Friday to a two-month low after EU merger commissioners sent it a Statement of Objection over the two-step deal it used to acquire Toshiba Medical Systems in 2016.

While the approval of the merger will remain “effective,” the examination of alleged violations of procedural rules could end up costing Canon as much as $2.9 billion in fines, according to a European Commission statement.

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The deal had already raised objections, including in China and Japan.

"We need companies to work with us to ensure fast and predictable merger control, to the benefit of both companies and consumers. But we can only do our job well if we can rely on cooperation from the companies concerned – they must obtain our approval before they implement their transactions, and the information they supply us must be correct and complete," stated Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

The Commission has told Canon that its “preliminary conclusion” is that the company “breached the EU Merger Regulation by implementing its acquisition of Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation before both notifying to, and obtaining approval by, the Commission.”

The Commission was notified on August 12, 2016 and cleared the deal on September 19, 2016.

The organization said that in its preliminary view, the deal used a “so-called 'warehousing' two-step transaction structure, involving an interim buyer, which essentially allowed it to acquire Toshiba Medical Systems prior to obtaining the relevant merger approvals.”

If the initial viewpoint becomes the group's final conclusion, “it could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Canon's annual worldwide turnover,” according to the statement.

The company responded only that it had received the document from the Commission, explaining in a statement that, “Canon, upon careful examination of the Statement of Objections, will respond in due course. Additionally, Canon cannot provide any further comment relating to this matter until the European Commission reaches its final decision.”

This possible penalty is not a toothless threat. In May, the Commission slapped Facebook with a 110 million euro fine for “providing incorrect or misleading information” over its deal to buy WhatsApp.

The approach to the Toshiba Medical buy has raised objections internationally.

In January, China's Ministry of Commerce reportedly slapped a 300,000 yuan ($43,000) antitrust fine on the deal.
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