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Exclusive-Illumina, Grail deal faces full-scale EU antitrust probe -sources

By Reuters

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS -U.S. life sciences company Illumina Inc’s proposed buy of cancer test maker Grail Inc faces a lengthy EU antitrust investigation if it does not offer hefty concessions this week, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Illumina announced the $8 billion cash-and-stock deal for cancer screening startup Grail last September under which it will buy out investors, including Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, to regain control of a company it spun out five years ago.

Last month, the European Commission opened a preliminary review into the deal, a decision Illumina is challenging in court because the deal does not meet the EU revenue criteria. It eventually decided to seek EU approval for the deal while waiting for the court ruling.

The EU competition enforcer’s review ends on July 22. According to EU merger rules, Illumina has until July 15 to offer concessions to address possible competition concerns or risk a five-month regulatory investigation.

Illumina has informally proposed concessions similar to the ones it offered the U.S. Federal Trade Commission which includes contractual guarantees of equal and fair access to its sequencing and a commitment to drive down prices by more than 40 percent by 2025, the people said.

The EU antitrust watchdog however does not think the offer is enough, they said.

The Commission declined to comment. Illumina did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Its stock fell 1% and was down 0.3% in early trade after the Reuters story went out.

The EU regulator in April said the combined entity could restrict access to, or increase prices of next-generation sequencers and reagents to the detriment of Grail rivals in genomic cancer tests.