By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s biggest copper smelter Aurubis is set to win EU antitrust approval for its planned 380-million-euro ($412 million) acquisition of Belgian-Spanish metal recycling group Metallo, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Aurubis agreed in May 2019 to buy Metallo as part of an acquisition-led expansion into other metals. Metallo processes about 220,000 tonnes of scrap and recycling materials annually at its plant in Beerse, Belgium, with another 95,000 tonnes processed at its plant in Berango, Spain.
In February Aurubis offered to sell assets in Spain and Belgium to address the European Commission’s concerns about the deal, one of the people said. It is not clear if EU competition enforcers accepted the offer in its entirety or in a revised form.
The Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by May 7, declined to comment.
Aurubis said it was cooperating with the Commission.
“We still believe that the merger should be cleared unconditionally. Due to the extension we expect the final decision early May,” the company said.
The EU competition enforcer opened a full-scale investigation into the deal in November last year, saying the merged entity could hold a dominant position in copper scrap with increased purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for the copper scarp it buys.
Another concern centred on Aurubis’ market power in the downstream markets for copper cathodes and wire rods.
Before the Metallo deal, the Commission in early 2019 blocked Aurubis’ proposed sale of its flat rolled products division to German copper products producer Wieland, arguing the deal could lead to higher prices.
($1 = 0.9219 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)