The European Commission (EC) has ruled that it needs more time to adjudicate on the competition issues raised by America On-Line (AOL)'s proposed takeover of Time Warner (TW). But it kept quiet on whether it would link its investigations into Time Warner's takeover of music group EMI.
The EC, which has been investigating the merger for the last four months, said that the firms had offered concessions to alleviate anti-competitive fears and that it now needs another week to consider them. The deadline for a ruling now moves from June 8 to June 19.
While the AOL-TW merger is extremely large - it was valued at $164bn before share price falls reduced it to $124bn at present - and has sparked submissions from hundreds of interested parties, the EC is understood to have had a tough time assessing the impact of a marriage between old and new media companies. Obvious overlaps are few, but it has had to try to anticipate how media services will develop in the European Union.
More clear cut - and a possible way of buying still more time to think through the AOL-TW merger - is the EMI deal. The EC this week received complaints from music publishers in the Nordic region claiming that a merged Warner-EMI would control 50% of music publishing in Sweden and 70% in Finland. That compares with the 22% world share estimated by the two companies. The EC is scheduled to give its verdict on June 14 after a one month review and could decide that it needs to open a full four month enquiry.
AOL and TW shareholders are set to vote on June 23 whether to accept the merger of the Internet and media giants.