Brussels, 16 March 2006
Mergers and acquisitions in the financial sector: Commission asks for industry's views on how to improve supervisory approval process
The European Commission has launched a consultation on how to improve the supervisory approval process for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the banking, insurance and securities sectors. Current EU rules allow Member States' supervisory authorities to block proposed M&A if they consider that the 'sound and prudent management' of the target company could be put at risk. In a 2005 Commission survey (IP/05/1386, MEMO/05/409) the financial services industry identified inconsistent application of these rules as a potential barrier to cross-border consolidation in the EU financial sector. As part of its ongoing review of this area, the Commission is now asking the financial services industry how the clarity and transparency of these rules could be improved, and how best to ensure their consistent application across the EU. The responses will form the basis of a report to be issued in Summer 2006, after which the Commission may propose amendments to the existing EU legislation, if appropriate. All interested stakeholders are invited to respond to the consultation by 19 April 2006.
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said: "Europe's financial companies need to be able to compete globally, not just in their own back yard. Current rules on supervisory approval give too much scope for protectionism and divergent supervisory practices. If we're serious about making cross-border consolidation easier in the financial sector then we need to make sure that these rules are absolutely clear and transparent and consistently applied. And that they leave no room for political interference."
The issue of low cross-border consolidation in the financial sector was discussed at the informal meeting of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) held in Scheveningen on 10-11 September 2004 (see MEMO/04/214). Ministers asked the Commission to study possible obstacles to cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the financial sector, arising both from differing supervisory practices and from other, broader factors.
The Commission has since begun a review of the existing rules in the banking sector (Article 16 of the Banking Directive 2000/12/EC) on the supervisory assessments of shareholdings that allow Member States to block on prudential grounds the acquisition of shareholdings above certain thresholds (so called 'qualifying shareholdings') . As this legislation is very similar to corresponding legislation in the securities and insurance sectors, it was considered appropriate to extend the review to include these sectors as well, in order to maintain and enhance further cross-sectoral consistency.
This consultation forms a very important part of the review of supervisory assessments, and will assist the Commission in assessing whether, or to what extent, any changes may be needed in the existing rules.
As part of this work, the Commission has also carried out a study on the reasons why there has been little cross-border consolidation so far in the EU, which identified the lack of cross-border cost synergies as the major obstacle (IP/05/1386).
How to take part in the consultation