J&J gains EU clearance for $21 bln Synthes deal

BRUSSELS, April 19 Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:00am EDT

BRUSSELS, April 19 (Reuters) - U.S. healthcare company Johnson & Johnson secured EU clearance on Thursday to purchase Swiss medical device maker Synthes Inc. for about $21 billion, a move to boost its orthopaedics franchise.

The deal is J&J's largest acquisition. It won EU regulatory approval after J&J committed to divest its trauma business in the EU, which had raised competition concerns.

The European Commission, the EU's competition watchdog, said in a statement that the merged group would continue to face competition from several strong rivals and that customers would still have sufficient alternative suppliers.

"We obtained remedies to ensure that competition will remain strong in these markets, for the ultimate benefit of patients and social security systems," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.