BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's competition watchdog will decide by Feb.18 whether to approve a merger of the rail operations of Germany's Siemens <SIEGn.DE> and France's Alstom <ALSO.PA>, a spokesman said on Monday.
French newspaper Les Echos reported last Friday that the European Commission was likely to veto the merger, which would create a Franco-German rail champion, sending Alstom shares 2.6 percent lower on Monday.
"Our investigation is ongoing, our current decision deadline is February 18," Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said.
Four national regulators expressed their reservations about the merger in December, saying the two firms fell far short of addressing concerns over their deal.
The concerns over how the merger would affect competition centre around the supply of very high-speed rolling stock for trains such as the Eurostar which links Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Siemens and Alstom are the two largest suppliers of this product in Europe.
The merger of their rail operations was designed to create a European champion to challenge the advance of China's state-owned CRRC <601766.SS> and Canada's Bombadier Transportation <BBDb.TO>.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop/Keith Weir)