European Commission Announces Interim Measures to Avert Possibly Irreversible Consequences of Grail's Acquisition by Illumina
Less than a month ago, the European Commission (the Commission) announced that it would open an investigation to determine whether Illumina’s decision to acquire Grail pending its review of that transaction under Regulation 139/2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (the Merger Regulation) is in breach of the “standstill obligation” provided for by Article 7, Merger Regulation (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News & Insights of 24 August 2021). The Commission has now raised the stakes by issuing a Statement of Objections against Illumina in which it threatens to adopt interim measures designed, in the Commission’s words, to “prevent the potentially irreparable detrimental impact of the transaction on competition, as well as [the] possible irreversible integration of the merging parties, pending the outcome of the Commission's merger investigation” (see, attached press release of 20 September 2021).
The Commission took pains to point out that Illumina’s autonomous decision to keep Grail separate following its acquisition (and thus avoid the possibly irreversible consequences which the Commission professes to avert) was not sufficient and presented several “serious shortcomings”. It also insisted that any adoption of interim measures would not preclude a possible later finding on the merits that Illumina’s conduct was in violation of the standstill obligation.
The new hostilities come against the background of the Commission’s controversial assertion of merger control jurisdiction over the Illumina-Grail transaction which Illumina challenged before the European General Court.