EU probes BT-MCI merger

BRUSSELS – The European Commission said Thursday it was opening a routine probe into the planned $20 billion merger of British Telecom and MCI Communications Corp.

The commission, the European Union’s executive body, said in a statement published in its official journal that the deal appeared to fall under the EU’s rule banning mergers that create or strengthen dominant positions.

The regulation applies to companies with European revenue of at least 250 million Ecus ($312.5 million). It gives the commission one month to decide whether to clear the deal or open an in-depth investigation – a faster timetable than under other EU competition rules.

The two companies announced in November that they were pooling their operations in an entity called Concert Plc.

However, the merger faces its most important antitrust test in the United States, where legislation forbids a foreign company from taking more than a 20% stake in a U.S. firm unless its home market is effectively open to competition.

Both the EU and the United States approved an earlier joint venture between British Telecom and MCI, also known as Concert, which provides telecommunications services to multinational companies.

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