BELGIUM – In a bid to allay EU antitrust concerns about its proposed takeover of cancer detection test maker Grail, Illumina has offered to cut prices and continue to allow rivals access to its technologies, according to a European Commission filing.

The US$8 billion cash-and-stock deal, which was announced in September 2020, was to give Illumina access to Grail’s flagship Galleri blood test, which is used to diagnose cancer in its early stages, when it is easier to treat.

The European Commission, on the other hand, has warned that the acquisition could stifle innovation and competition.

Regulatory scrutiny of such transactions comes amid concerns on both sides of the Atlantic that large corporations may buy innovative start-ups in order to shut down potential competitors.

We are guaranteeing the continued supply of Illumina’s products and support to oncology customers at the same price GRAIL pays, and to make our latest technologies available on the same terms that GRAIL receives, along with a guaranteed significant price reduction over the coming years,” Illumina said in a statement.

The EU’s competition watchdog has extended its decision deadline to March 25. Before deciding whether to accept the remedies or demand more concessions, it is expected to solicit feedback from competitors and customers.

Illumina, a life sciences company based in the United States, previously made a similar offer to antitrust regulators in the United States, who are suing to block the deal.

In other related news, the US$19.7 billion Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance announced earlier this year has piqued the interest of the United Kingdom’s active antitrust watchdog, which has announced that it is taking a preliminary look to determine whether there are reasons to be concerned about the proposed deal.

In due course, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will make a decision on whether to launch a phase 1 investigation.

Antitrust review of proposed acquisitions can take months — and, at the very least, cause significant delays in clearing transactions.

The deal, which is expected to close this year, would be Microsoft’s second-largest, following the software giant’s US$26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016.

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