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ACCC liaises with US as Aon-WTW deal hits hurdle

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is in contact with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Aon’s proposed acquisition of Willis Towers Watson as the deal faces regulatory hurdles.

The Justice Department last week filed an anti-trust lawsuit seeking to block the proposed deal, which it says would substantially lessen competition, despite proposals to sell assets. The deal is also yet to gain regulatory clearance in Europe and other jurisdictions.

“The ACCC’s review is ongoing and while it is separate to the US DOJ’s consideration of the merger, we are closely following the case and liaising with the DOJ,” a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Aon said last month it would divest a suite of businesses including reinsurance broker Willis Re to Arthur J. Gallagher for $US3.57 billion ($4.65 billion) in a bid to overcome regulatory concerns.

But the Justice Department says the asset sales “would not come close” to fully maintaining the competition that would otherwise be lost in the US market in property, casualty and financial risk broking and in health benefits.

Aon and Willis Towers Watson say they are making progress with other regulators and remain committed to the benefits of the combination.

“We disagree with the US Department of Justice’s action, which reflects a lack of understanding of our business, the clients we serve and the marketplaces in which we operate,” they say.

The European Commission has a provisional deadline of August 3 for its decision, while the ACCC has said it will announce a proposed decision “in due course”. The New Zealand Commerce Commission is also considering the matter, with no change to its plan for a decision by July 2.

See ANALYSIS.