LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Denying a trans-Atlantic trade rift was developing, the European Union's top antitrust regulator said Monday that Europeans were not the only ones with reservations about General Electric Co.'s proposed $41 billion acquisition of Honeywell International Inc.
Competition Commissioner Mario Monti told a news conference the proposed deal ``has raised strong concerns'' among airlines on both side of the Atlantic.
Without naming names, he said several U.S. firms complained and took an ``active role'' at the EU Commission hearing held last month on the proposed deal.
``This is not a trans-Atlantic dispute,'' he said. ``There have been concerns expressed both by customers and competitors on both sides.''
Although it won conditional clearance in Washington last month, the merger has run into serious trouble with EU regulators, who are reportedly demanding GE sell off billions more than GE has offered.
GE said the EU had rejected its final offer for divestitures as insufficient. GE said it was not optimistic about winning EU approval.
Stressing that the case has not been decided yet - the deadline for an EU decision July 12 - Monti expressed anger over what he termed ``attempts to misinform the public and to trigger political intervention.
``This is entirely out of place in an antitrust case and has no impact on the Commission whatsoever,'' he said. ``This is a matter of law and economics, not politics.''
He added that for 10 years, the EU office has had a ``very close and constructive cooperation'' with U.S. regulators. He said he was recently in touch with the new Bush administration appointees and ``expressed my willingness to work with them and intensify cooperation.''
The EU has expressed concern that a combined GE-Honeywell will be able to exploit its dominance in aircraft engines to win advantages in other areas of its business, such as aircraft leasing, engine servicing and aerospace electronics, also known as avionics.
Monti also dismissed criticisms by U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing that the Commission plans to block the merger in an attempt to defend French rival Airbus Industrie.
``Contrary to some statements reported in the media, the large aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus have not been particularly active in the proceedings,'' he said.
Boeing president Harry Stonecipher was quoted by the French daily Le Monde on Saturday as saying Airbus opposed the deal because it would unite GE's aircraft engine business with Honeywell, a key supplier of aircraft electronics.
At the Paris Air Show on Sunday, Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard insisted ``Airbus has no objection to the deal and has made it known very formally to the European Commission.''
The Commission said Monday it had no meetings with representatives or lawyers of the companies over the weekend.