The European Commission has approved Veolia's acquisition of fellow environmental services giant Suez. In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that approval had been possible "thanks to the very comprehensive commitments put forward by Veolia. By this decision, the Commission ensures that this transaction will not adversely affect competition in the water and waste markets, two sectors that are key to the European Green Deal and the circular economy."
According to the Commission, Veolia will sell almost all of Suez's activities in the non-hazardous and regulated waste management markets and the municipal water market in France. It will likewise sell off parts of both its own hazardous waste landfill activities and those belonging to Suez as well as all of Suez's activities in the incineration and physico-chemical treatment of hazardous waste. The Commission was convinced that "these structural commitments eliminate entirely the competition concerns" arising from the merger within the EU.
Veolia had planned from the start of its takeover campaign to spin off numerous Suez water assets in its home market of France. The scope of the businesses to be sold was expanded during the course of the negotiations between the groups in order to ensure the viability of the "New Suez". However, still further remedies in the sectors of industrial water, mobile solutions and special industrial waste had been needed to meet the requirements of the European Commission in certain other markets, according to last night's announcement.
Antoine Frérot: Merger is "only a matter of weeks away"
Veolia CEO Antoine Frérot said he was "delighted" with the decision, which he believes confirms the strength and the relevance of Veolia's industrial project. "This step opens the final phase of the merger, which is only a matter of weeks away," he said. France's financial markets authority AMF set a closing date on Tuesday for the takeover bid of 7 January 2022.
With EU Commission approval in place, Veolia is now left waiting for only three of the 18 approvals needed to close the merger. Examinations are still underway in Chile, the United Kingdom and Australia, according to Veolia. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is weighing whether to open a more in-depth level 2 review. Last week, the authority said that its initial examination had revealed a number of concerns with regard to a lessening of competition in several regional and national markets and had given the parties five days to respond to its concerns.