June 15, 2012 / 11:13 AM / 6 years ago

EU to rule on Siemens, Areva probe next week

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators will decide next week whether to accept concessions offered by Germany’s Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and France’s Areva AREVA.PA to end an investigation into their former nuclear power joint venture, the EU’s antitrust chief said.

General view shows the chimneys of the Areva combustible fabrication plant in Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux April 20, 2011. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

“Earlier this year, the companies offered to reduce the scope and duration of their non-compete agreements and a decision is slated for next week,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in the text of a speech to the International Bar Association meeting in Madrid on Friday.

Almunia did not say what he would decide but added that the case showed the European Commission’s “strict approach towards unjustified non-compete clauses, even in a long-term sector such as the nuclear industry”.

Areva and Siemens declined to comment.

If the regulator agrees to accept the concessions, it would then drop the investigation without a fine for Siemens or Areva, the world’s biggest maker of nuclear plants.

Companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules.

The EU regulator’s investigation has centered on a non-compete clause signed by the companies as part of joint venture Areva NP - formed in 2001 - which still applied after Siemens quit the venture in 2009.

In March, Siemens and Areva offered to limit the non-compete obligation to all Areva NP core products and services for three years after Siemens left the venture. They also proposed to drop the clause for non-core products and services.

The Commission then asked for feedback from rivals and users.

    Additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet in Paris and Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; editing by Rex Merrifield and David Cowell

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