The European Commission has opened a detailed investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the planned acquisition of Aker Yards of Norway by STX of (South Korea). Both companies are major players in the shipbuilding business. An in-depth investigation will enable the Commission to assess whether the removal of STX as a new entrant into the cruise ship market would possibly have anti-competitive effects and so harm consumers. The Commission has 90 working days, until 15 May 2008, to take a final decision on whether the concentration would significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area (EEA) or a substantial part of it. The decision to open an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation.

STX is a major shipbuilder. In the past, it has concentrated on building various types of cargo vessels such as container ships or gas tankers.

Aker Yards is mainly active in the construction of cruise ships and ferries, merchant vessels and offshore vessels.

The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation of the transaction due to possible anti-competitive effects on the cruise ship market. The construction of cruise ships is characterised by an oligopolistic market structure with only three large players worldwide, one of them being Aker Yards. The initial market investigation indicated that specialised know-how constitutes a high barrier to enter this market. The investigation also revealed that STX may actually be very close to entering the market and to becoming a competitor to the pre-existing players. The proposed transaction may therefore remove a potential new market entrant and have potentially anti-competitive effects that could result in harm to consumers in the growing market for cruise ships. [20 December 2007]