UPDATE 2-Illumina expects EU order to keep Grail a separate company

·2 min read

(Recasts first sentence with Illumina expecting an EU order, adds comments by Illumina)

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Illumina Inc expects an EU order to keep recently acquired Grail Inc as a separate company, the U.S. life sciences company said on Monday, hours after EU antitrust regulators warned of interim measures for closing the deal before their approval.

The company is likely to face other measures on top of the hold separate order, however, with the EU competition enforcer sending a warning to other companies.

Illumina finalised the Grail takeover last month and said it would hold the company separate while waiting for a European Commission decision on the deal, defying EU merger rules against gun-jumping.

Previous instances of gun-jumping have resulted in companies being hit with million-euro fines. Sanctions can be as much as 10% of a company's global turnover.

"We had anticipated that the Commission would seek to impose a hold separate order, and this is the reason why it has already voluntarily agreed to such an arrangement; their proposals are based on Illumina's voluntary undertakings," Illumina said in a statement.

It said it would discuss certain changes suggested by the EU in the coming days.

The EU competition enforcer earlier on Monday said it had sent a statement of objections or charge sheet to the companies, setting out the interim measures it plans to take. It did not provide details.

Under EU merger rules, the competition watchdog can order companies to unwind their deals or sell off shares or assets acquired for violations.

Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager underlined the seriousness of Illumina's actions, saying it was the first time companies had openly implemented a deal while regulators were still investigating.

"The standstill obligation is a cornerstone of our ex-ante merger control regime which aims at preventing harmful effects to competition while our review is ongoing," she said in a statement.

The Commission said the interim measures aim to restore and maintain effective competition pending a final decision on the deal.

The Commission will make a final decision on the measures after receiving the companies' response. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels Editing by Jan Harvey and Matthew Lewis)

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