EU to investigate Swiss chemical firm's plan to buy J.M. Huber's paper mineral business

BRUSSELS, Belgium , October 25, 2005 () – EU antitrust regulators opened an in-depth inquiry Friday into Swiss chemical firm Omya AG's plan to buy U.S. mineral producer J.M. Huber's paper mineral business.

''The markets supplying the European paper industry are complex and concentrated. Were competition to be reduced in this sector, it would result in increased costs for a wide range of European businesses,'' EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

J.M. Huber -- headquartered in Edison, New Jersey -- is selling off 12 plants built on paper mill sites to provide calcium carbonate to the paper industry.

Only six of those are in Europe, but Finland, Sweden and France asked the EU to look into the deal because they believed the deal could make Omya too powerful a player in the 72 billion euro ($88.01 billion) European paper-making industry.

''The commission takes the view that there is a serious risk that effective competition will be impaired in these concentrated and complex markets, and that a closer analysis is therefore necessary,'' the EU head office said.

The EU antitrust authority has until Jan. 26, 2006 to decide if it will block the deal. It can also insist the companies sell off part of the business.

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