The European Union won’t weaken merger rules during the COVID-19 pandemic even if companies say they are likely to go bust without a deal, a senior EU antitrust official said on Wednesday.
European Commission Director General for Competition Olivier Guersent said he expected more companies to use the “failing firm defence” to try to justify mergers during the crisis.
But he said regulators didn’t see the need to relax rules.
“Why should we? What’s the rationale for that? Which criteria should we relax?” Guersent told an American Chamber of Commerce EU online event.
“We will not get out this crisis better if we weaken competition policy,” he said.
He also said the Commission planned to offer guidance soon to companies involved in large investments and in digital projects to allow them to cooperate with peers without running foul of EU antitrust rules against cartels or anti-competitive practices.
Guersent issued a so-called comfort letter to the pharmaceutical industry in April so drugmakers can coordinate to increase production and to improve the supply of urgently needed critical hospital medicines to treat COVID-19 patients.