No Novelis concessions for now despite EU concerns over Aleris bid: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. aluminum producer Novelis has no plans for now to offer concessions despite EU antitrust objections over its $2.6 billion buy of processor Aleris, people close to the situation said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A staff checks finished aluminum coils at the facility of flat-rolled aluminum products maker Novelis, part of Aditya Birla Group, in Sierre, Switzerland, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Novelis, a U.S. unit of India’s Hindalco Industries Ltd, announced a bid for Aleris in July last year to gain a foothold in supplying the aerospace industry and other value-added businesses globally.

One of the world’s biggest suppliers of aluminum sheets for beverage cans and car parts, Novelis is making its biggest acquisition as part of its diversification into premium markets.

EU antitrust regulators on Monday sent a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to the companies, setting out their concerns, particularly on the impact of the deal on carmakers, the sources. The companies have two weeks to respond.

The European Commission opened an investigation into the deal in March, worried that the deal may reduce competition in the supply of various semi-finished aluminum products, reduced choice in suppliers and higher prices for aluminum car body sheets.

The EU competition enforcer also said the deal may affect the supply and prices of certain aluminum flat rolled products used in the building, construction and floor heating industries.

The Commission has narrowed its concerns to the auto industry according its charge sheet, the people said.

They said Novelis will argue that the deal will not lead to higher prices because of competition from aluminum and steel producers and customers willing to switch to rivals.

Novelis, which was once a dominant market player, has seen its market share decline because of competition and expects the trend to continue, the people said.

The Commission has set a Sept. 16 deadline for its decision.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Robin Emmott