EU approves Merck’s Schering-Plough takeover

The European Union has approved Merck’s proposed takeover of Schering-Plough, which would create the second biggest global producer of prescription medicines.

The EU’s antitrust authorities said in a statement that the “transaction would not significantly impede effective competition” in Europe.

The $41.1 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough will make Merck the second largest prescription drug company, with about $42.4 billion in annual sales.

Integration planning teams from the two companies are working together to ensure that the combined company will be well equipped to begin its first day of business as soon as the merger is completed.

“Approval from the European Commission marks a key milestone for the completion of our transaction with Schering-Plough,” said Merck President and CEO Richard T. Clark.

“We’re making good progress towards our closing and look forward to creating a strong global leader that will make a substantial difference to patients and healthcare around the world.”

The two companies hope to close the deal in the fourth quarter after shareholders approved it in August. It still needs approval from the US Federal Trade Commission.

In its checks for overlaps in Europe, specifically in the areas of asthma and allergic rhinitis, the EU Commission found the products were not close competitors and that the tie-up would not prevent other companies from competing.