More mergers waved through

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European regulators are waving through more mergers without forcing sell-offs of parts of the larger combined businesses, despite vows to clamp down on anti-competitive acquisitions.

Only seven out of 309 mergers referred to the European Commission last year were blocked or saw "remedies", such as selling parts of a business, applied. That adds up to just 2 per cent, against 6 per cent in 2010, while this year it is likely to be around 4 per cent.

Alastair Mordaunt, who was director of mergers at the Office of Fair Trading from 2007 to 2010 and is now an antitrust partner at Clifford Chance, said: "Regulators across Europe, including me, said during the crisis that mergers were not on ice. Despite the rhetoric, enforcement has certainly not increased and even seems to be slightly down."

It was feared regulators would approve mergers to keep the economy moving, even if they concentrated the market into too few hands. Mr Mordaunt said the evidence is not clear-cut, but is surprising due to the drop in private equity acquisitions. A higher proportion of trade deals would result in less fragmented markets.