SYDNEY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Europe’s steel industry has voiced strong opposition to a planned $116 billion iron ore joint venture by global miners Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) and BHP Billiton (BHP.AX), and has called on European regulators to oppose the deal.
Eurofer, the main lobby group for European steel makers, said in a statement on its Web site this week that it wanted the European Commission to study the venture, which would combine the Australian iron ore operations of the two companies.
Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are the world’s second and third largest producers of the steel-making raw material, respectively.
“If allowed to proceed, the JV will restrict competition in relation to the fundamental competitive parameters in the seaborne iron ore markets: price, volume and quality,” Eurofer Director General Gordon Moffat said in the statement.
“Therefore, Eurofer has requested the European Commission to exercise jurisdiction over this new transaction and carefully investigate its impact on free competition.”
Eurofer said the joint venture would pose as much of a competitive threat as BHP Billiton’s original proposal, aborted a year ago, for a full takeover of Rio Tinto.
“The proposal to create this JV will have the same impact on the iron ore market as would have had the original full merger proposal comprehensively objected to by the commission last year,” Moffat said. “There is no reason for the commission to take a more positive view of this current JV proposal.” (Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Jonathan Standing)