Aurubis confident on Wieland copper deal despite EU concerns

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Aurubis AG, Europe’s biggest copper smelter, said on Thursday it is confident its plan to sell its flat rolled copper products unit to Germany’s Wieland-Werke AG will be approved despite EU antitrust regulators on Wednesday saying the deal may hurt competition.

The European Commission on Wednesday opened an in-depth investigation to examine the impact of the deal on the companies’ customers and consumers. It will decide by Dec. 10 whether to clear the takeover.

“We remain optimistic that the sale to Wieland will be approved in the second phase of the EU’s competition examination,” a spokeswoman for Aurubis told Reuters. “It is not unusual for the EU to initiate the second review phase because they need more time for the examination.”

“We expect that the EU antitrust authorities will approve the sale.”

Wieland also said it was confident.

“The decision by the EU competition authorities to open a second examination phase, which can take up to 90 days, can be attributed to the complexity and size of the transaction,” a Wieland spokeswoman said. “We are optimistic that we will see the second phase completed before the end of the year with a positive decision.”

Aurubis wants to sell the unit, with turnover around 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) and output of around 230,000 tonnes of copper and alloyed products in its last business year, as part of its strategy to expand into other metals besides copper.

The deal also includes the sale of a 50 percent share in German copper products company Schwermetall Halbzeugwerk - the other 50 percent is already held by unlisted Wieland-Werke.

In July, the European Commission also opened a full-scale investigation into German copper producer KME’s purchase of German copper products producer Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing (MKM).

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by David Evans