The Commission is concerned that the operation may reduce competition in the global cruise ship construction market
by our correspondent Beda Romano
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BRUSSELS – Confirming the rumors of the vigil, the European Commission announced Wednesday 30 October that it had opened an in-depth investigation into the merger between the Italian Fincantieri and the French STX in the field of shipyards. The operation is particularly delicate from a political point of view because it comes while some countries, like France, are asking for a reform of the competition rules in Europe to be able to create new European giants more easily.
"We will scrupulously examine whether the announced operation could have a negative impact on competition in the cruise ship construction sector, to the detriment of the millions of European citizens who go on a cruise every year," the commissioner explained to the competition Margrethe Vestager. Brussels has identified "significant barriers to entering the cruise ship construction market due to the highly complex nature of this sector".
Fincantieri had notified the acquisition of STX in the last days of September, in the wake of a long pre-notification period that began in March this year. After a month of card analysis, the European Commission has decided to open an in-depth investigation that should last a maximum of 90 days, extendable for another 35 days. Clearly, Brussels fears that the operation could lead to higher prices on the market, given the size of the new company. He could therefore ask for remedies.
As mentioned, the antitrust case relating to STX-Fincantieri is politically delicate. In recent months, the community executive had blatantly rejected the merger between the German Siemens and the French Alstom, provoking the lively criticisms of Paris and even of Berlin. On that occasion, Commissioner Vestager had justified herself by explaining that together the two companies would have had a dominant position and would have influenced the upward prices on the market.
In a statement released on Tuesday 29 October in the late evening, Fincantieri executives expressed "dissent" for the expected Community decision to launch a further phase of deepening of the Fincantieri-STX operation. "In Europe – explained the Italian company even before the European choice was official – even after the operation, there would still be three cruise ship builders compared to the current four".