EU's Almunia wants substantial UPS, Hutchison concessions

BRUSSELS Fri Nov 2, 2012 3:45pm EDT

BRUSSELS Nov 2 (Reuters) - The EU antitrust chief called on United Parcel Service Inc on Friday to come up with significant concessions to allay concerns that its 5.2 billion-euro ($6.68 billion) bid for Dutch peer TNT Express may hurt rivals and consumers.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia also expressed similar concerns about telecoms operator Hutchison 3G's planned 1.3 billion-euro takeover of France Telecom's Orange Austria, saying he wanted sizeable concessions.

The European Commission, charged with ensuring that mergers in the 27-country European Union do not harm competition, has been examining both deals for several months.

"Our preliminary view is that serious competition concerns would arise in both cases, and substantial remedies are needed," Almunia said, according to an advanced copy of a speech to be delivered at a competition conference in Cernobbio, Italy.

He did not provide details of the kind of remedies he was looking for. The EU watchdog typically prefers asset sales to licensing or network access concessions.

UPS has yet to offer any remedies to the EU executive. The TNT bid, the biggest in its 105-year history, wil reinforce it as the world No. 1 package delivery company.

Hutchison is willing to divest 2.6 GHz spectrum to try to win EU approval for its planned purchase of Orange Austria, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. That offer comes on top of an earlier proposal to open up its network in Austria to rivals.

The EU executive has set a Dec. 21 deadline for a decision on the Hutchison deal and Jan. 15 for UPS.