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Brussels, 3 November 1999

Commission refers BSCH/Champalimaud case to the Court of Justice

The Commission has decided to refer the "BSCH/Champalimaud" case to the Court of Justice. The case stems from Portugal's failure to comply with the decision which the Commission adopted on 20 July 1999 under the Merger Regulation. The referral to the Court is accompanied by a request for interim measures.

The decision adopted on 20 July provisionally suspended the decision taken by the Portuguese Minister for Finance on 18 June 1999 to oppose the BSCH/Champalimaud merger, on the grounds that the measure infringed Article 21 of the Merger Regulation (which grants the Commission exclusive powers to assess mergers with a Community dimension). The Portuguese authorities did not notify their measures in advance, and the national and prudential interests invoked were not deemed legitimate by the Commission.

On 8 September 1999, the Commission decided to initiate accelerated proceedings against Portugal for failure to comply with the decision of 20 July 1999. On 13 October, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion, giving Portugal one week to reply. On 20 October, the one-week deadline expired without any reply from the Portuguese authorities having been received.

The referral to the Court of Justice with an application for interim measures is necessary because the Portuguese authorities have still not suspended their decision of 18 June. The merger approved by the Commission on 3 August has consequently still not been implemented. Furthermore, Portugal's decision to oppose the merger entails the suspension of the voting rights of BSCH and Champalimaud. Unless the suspension is withdrawn immediately, the way would be open for a hostile bid for Champalimaud by Banco Comercial Português, which would definitively prevent the merger approved by the Commission.

Under the interim measures requested, the Court would order the suspension of Portugal's decision of 18 June and of the measures resulting from it, and in particular the reinstatement of voting rights for BSCH and Mr Champalimaud.

(See also: IP/99/774 - sending of reasoned opinion; IP/99/669 - opening of infringement procedure; and IP/99/533 - decision to suspend the decision by the Minister of Finance)

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