EU antitrust officials say the merger between the office supply chains could price hikes and hurt customers. Fred Katayama reports.
Staples' merger deal with Office Depot has run into another roadblock. EU antitrust regulators have begun a deep investigation, saying the merger could lead to price hikes and hurt business customers. In Europe, Office Depot and Staples, along with France's Lyreco, are the main competitors in the office products arena for business customers. Staples CEO Ron Sargent said his company will continue to cooperate with the European Commission. BB&T Capital Markets' senior research analyst Anthony Chukumba said the EU move comes as a surprise. "To have the EU say we'll take a close look at this and more importantly say ... we'll have no final decision until February is a setback." The merger is also coming under closer scrutiny in the U.S., which had three major players until Office Depot acquired Office Max two years ago. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Federal Trade Commission is stepping up its probe, a signal it could possibly file suit against the deal. It had blocked Staples' first deal with Office Depot in 1997. Office Depot shares dropped in early trading. So did those of Staples. The merger has gotten the blessing of regulators in China, New Zealand and Australia.