UPDATE 1-3M drops office products deal after US antitrust objection

Tue Sep 4, 2012 7:09pm EDT

WASHINGTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - 3M Co is abandoning its plan to acquire Avery Dennison Corp's office products groups after antitrust authorities at the U.S. Justice Department threatened a civil lawsuit to block the deal, the department said on Tuesday.

The department disclosed its objections in a news release, saying the proposed acquisition "would have substantially lessened competition in the sale of labels and sticky notes."

Consumers would have seen higher prices and reduced innovation as a result, the department said.

The proposed deal, announced in January, was to be a $550 million cash purchase by 3M. It would have brought together two families of well-known consumer products, such as 3M's Post-It notes and Avery's HI-LITERS markers.

Although the agreement excluded some assets, Avery would have been left without its brand or the sales and distribution system necessary to compete in the sticky-notes market, the Justice Department said in its news release.

"We welcome the companies' decision to abandon this deal, which raised competitive concerns in the sale of labels and sticky notes," said Joseph Wayland, the acting assistant attorney general for antitrust matters.

Spokespeople for 3M and Avery were not immediately available for comment after business hours.

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