Canadian publisher Thomson won conditional approval from the European Union (EU) on Tuesday to buy its British rival Reuters, a deal that could create the world's biggest financial information provider.
The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said in a statement that it cleared the proposed transaction after the two companies agreed to sell off some of their overlapping businesses in order to remove competition concerns.
"The merging parties have offered a remedies package that provides strong safeguards that users of financial data will not be harmed by this major consolidation," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.
Thomson and London-based Reuters are two major providers of financial data to banks, investment funds and other financial services firms. Thomson is active in legal, fiscal, accounting and scientific research markets, while Reuters is best known as one of the largest international news agencies.
The commission opened an in-depth investigation into the takeover early October, which showed that the merger, as originally notified, would have raised competition concerns in the markets for the distribution of aftermarket broker research reports, of earning estimates, of fundamental financial data of enterprises and of time series of economic data.
Aftermarket broker research reports analyze securities, industries or markets. This market comprises the sale of the reports after an initial "embargo" period of around two weeks, prior to which they are only accessible to selected customers.
Earning estimates are predictions by analysts about future earnings of companies.
Fundamentals databases contain company-specific data, such as financial statement data, financial ratios or earnings per share data.
Time series of economic data comprise data on macroeconomic variables, such as GDP, unemployment rates, etc. collected over long periods of time to allow an analysis of trends.
The commission found the proposed transaction would have eliminated rivalry between the two main suppliers of such databases in the market, leaving financial institutions and customers of such products with a reduced choice, the likelihood of price increases and a severe risk of discontinuation of overlapping products.
To win approval, the two companies pledged to divest databases with financial information products, and the associated assets, employees and customer base in order to promote competition.
During the investigation, the European Commission had been in close cooperation with the U.S. antitrust authority. The U.S. Department of Justice said today that it would propose a settlement agreement with divestitures by the parties which are consistent with the remedies accepted by the commission.
The proposed merger, valued at about 7.9 billion pounds (15.4 billion U.S. dollars), will leave the combined entity to face sole competition from Bloomberg, but it still need approval from shareholders and court, which could take several weeks.