GE probed by EU

The European Commission has decided to open a detailed investigation into the proposed acquisition by US-based General Electric of the Finnish medical equipment maker Instrumentarium Oyj.

The European Commission has decided to open a detailed investigation into the proposed acquisition by General Electric of the Finnish medical equipment maker Instrumentarium Oyj.

During the investigation, the Commission will investigate the impact of the transaction in the markets for patient monitors, C-arms (mobile X-ray machines) and mammography equipment bought by hospitals.

In December, General Electric announced that it would buy Instrumentarium, a Finnish company which makes anaesthesia and critical care medical systems, including patient monitors. Instrumentarium is known in this field under the Datex-Ohmeda, Spacelabs Medical and Ziehm brand names.

At that time, the proposed acquisition was notified to the Commission for regulatory approval in Europe under merger regulations.

However, the Commission’s initial one-month investigation has shown that the merger would combine two major competitors and lead to high market shares, in particular, in the markets for patient monitors, C-arms (mobile X-ray machines) and mammography equipment in the EU.

During the in-depth review, the Commission will also seek to examine in more detail the extent to which Instrumentarium’s strong position in anaesthesia machines and patient monitors could have the effect of foreclosing the market to other makers of patient monitors. When under anaesthesia, a patient needs to be monitored and hence there is a need for interconnection between the anaesthesia machine and the patient monitor. The Commission has expressed concern that it could be more difficult for rival’s patient monitors to interoperate with Instrumentarium’s anaesthesia machines.

The European Commission and the antitrust division of the US Department of Justice are co-operating closely in this case, which requires regulatory approval in both sides.

The decision to open an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation, however. The Commission has four months from now to take a final decision.