COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Strict EU enforcement of competition rules prevents the development of the global champions necessary to compete with Chinese and U.S. companies, the head of shipping company Maersk <MAERSKb.CO> warned in an interview.
“Is it really a good idea that we don’t allow the creation of a European global champion? In doing so, we risk being outperformed by a Chinese company, over which the European Union has no influence,” Maersk CEO Soren Skou told Danish business daily Finans.
A Maersk spokeswoman confirmed his comments to Reuters.
Skou is a member of the European Round Table for Industry (ERT), a lobby group of 55 CEOs and chairs of large European companies. Last month, the group urged the EU to develop a new strategy to enhance global competitiveness.
The calls came after Brussels last year blocked a merger of the rail divisions of Siemens <SIEGn.DE> and Alstom <ALSO.PA>.
The collapse of the deal prompted Germany and France to call for an overhaul of EU competition policy to better meet global challenges.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at the time she had blocked the merger to protect competition in the European railway industry, dismissing Siemens and Alstom’s argument about merging to compete with their bigger Chinese state-owned rival CRRC <601766.SS> in the European market.
“Competition policy should not be just about protecting consumers. That is super important, but if it does not allow us to build the right European companies that can compete globally, it could become a huge problem for the EU in the long run,” Skou said.
“We cannot allow the United States and China to win the global technology race, while we spend our time discussing issues that belong to industries of the last century.”
In response to his comments, a European Commission spokeswoman told Reuters that EU policy had “not impeded the creation of European champions”.
“Over the years, the commission has cleared numerous large mergers that created European champions or allowed them to grow, such as Peugeot’s takeover of Opel and InBev’s acquisition of SABMiller,” the spokeswoman said.
She added that Siemens and Alstom were already global champions in the rail sector and that a merger was not needed for them to be able to compete globally.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Nick Macfie)