Maersk chief warns EU antitrust policy benefits China, US -Finans

COPENHAGEN, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Strict enforcement of competition rules in the European Union prevents the development of the global champions necessary to compete with Chinese and U.S. companies, the head of shipping company Maersk warned in an interview.

“Is it really a good idea that we don’t allow the creation of a European global champion? In doing so, we risk being outperformed by a Chinese company, over which the European Union has no influence,” Maersk CEO Soren Skou told Danish business daily Finans.

A Maersk spokeswoman confirmed his comments to Reuters.

Skou is a member of The European Round Table for Industry (ERT), a lobby group of 55 CEO and chairs of large European companies. Last month, the group urged the EU to develop a new industrial strategy to enhance the global competitiveness of European companies.

The calls came after Brussels last year blocked a merger of the rail divisions of Siemens and Alstom.

The collapse of the two companies’ plan to create a European rail champion prompted Germany and France to call for an overhaul of EU competition policy to better meet global challenges.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at the time she had blocked the deal to protect competition in the European railway industry, dismissing Siemens and Alstom’s argument about merging to compete with their bigger Chinese state-owned rival CRRC in the European market.

“Competition policy should not be just about protecting consumers. That is super important, but if it does not allow us to build the right European companies that can compete globally, it could become a huge problem for the EU in the long run,” Skou said.

“We cannot allow the United States and China to win the global technology race, while we spend our time discussing issues that belong to industries of the last century,” he added.

European Commission spokeswoman Giulia Astuti, who deals with competition cases, did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters on Wednesday.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Kirsten Donovan