EU Commission probes J&J plan to buy Synthes

BRUSSELS Fri Nov 4, 2011 4:18am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Friday it was opening and in-depth investigation into the proposed purchase by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) of Swiss medical device maker Synthes SYST.VX to make sure it does not harm competition.

"The proposed acquisition would remove a competitor from some markets which are already concentrated. The Commission needs to make sure that effective competition is preserved, in order to maintain innovation and prevent harm to patients," Joaquin Almunia, EU commissioner in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.

The $21.3 billion bid by Johnson & Johnson to boost its orthopedics franchise would be the firm's largest ever acquisition.

The EU statement said the Commission would now have 90 working days, until March 19, 2012, to take a final decision on whether the transaction would reduce competition in the European Economic Area.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom)

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