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EU approves GE's sale of plastics division

The European Union on Friday approved the General Electric (GE)'s plan to sell its plastics division to Saudi Basic Industries Co. (Sabic) at $11.6 billion.

The European Commission said in a statement that after examining the effects of the deal on customers and competitors, it concluded the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the EU. Sabic, based in Saudi Arabia, is a producer of various basic chemicals, fertilizers and other products, and is in particular active in the markets for plastics and raw materials on a world- wide basis, while GE Plastics, part of the GE, is also a leading manufacturer of plastics with worldwide activities.

The commission found that the product portfolios of both companies are largely complementary, with Sabic focusing on raw materials and commodity plastics and GE Plastics specialized in more refined types of plastics, notably so-called “engineering plastics.” Accordingly, the proposed transaction would not lead to significant overlaps in any market, the commission said. The EU's antitrust watchdog also reviewed whether the deal would affect competition in a vertical way since Sabic is a supplier of various raw materials that can be used by GE Plastics for its own plastics production.

Neither Sabic nor GE Plastics holds an important position as a supplier or customer that would allow the merged firm to close off other competitors from access to important raw materials or to deprive competitors of an important raw material customer, the commission said. The GE said in May that it would put the proceeds from the sale, which was estimated to be $9 billion after tax, into its current stock buyback program. (