German Chancellor Angela Merkel continued her campaign to get European Union antitrust rules changed so that companies in the region can better compete with global giants in the U.S. and China.
The EU’s increasingly tough merger reviews frequently target German firms, frustrating Merkel and her domestic and European allies who want to see companies from the continent leading the way in sectors from technology and telecommunications to transport and aerospace.
Current EU antitrust rules create doubt “about whether we can really create global players,” Merkel said in a speech at a technology conference in Berlin Tuesday.
“We must find a European willingness to change competition law,” the German leader added. She said the “best solution” would be a set of global rules that create a level playing field, but acknowledged that “we have not had much success up to now with this way of looking at things.”
A host of Germany’s leading companies have had their plans thwarted by EU officials in recent times. Siemens AG’s bid to create a rail champion was blocked this month and Deutsche Lufthansa AG had to drop its plan to buy collapsed airline Air Berlin on EU opposition in 2017.
Deutsche Boerse AG’s planned takeover of a British rival was vetoed, as was a German cement deal, while German carmakers are also targeted by an EU cartel probe, after record fines for truck manufacturers. Deutsche Telekom AG has complained that the EU’s approach hinders telecom deals it says are needed to drive investment.
European governments “need to do their homework” by easing regulation and investing in better digital infrastructure, Airbus SE Chief Executive Officer Thomas Enders said at the same event Tuesday.
“If we assume that this data business is going exponential, we’re very ill prepared,” Enders said.