BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union fined US biotech giant Illumina $475 million Wednesday for buying cancer testing firm Grail without authorization from the 27-nation bloc’s antitrust authorities.
Illumina had announced a $7.1 billion acquisition of Grail in 2020, but the European Commission, the EU’s executive, says it breached the group’s merger rules by proceeding to complete the deal without its consent. The EU announced last year that it would block the merger on competition grounds.
“If the companies merge before we get the go-ahead, they violate our rules. Illumina and Grail did this knowingly and deliberately by implementing their union while we were still investigating it,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “This is a very serious violation.”
The commission said that almost without exception, companies play by the rules and wait to complete their acquisitions or mergers until antitrust authorities give them the green light.
Illumina is a major provider of next-generation sequencing systems for genome and genetic analysis, while Grail is a healthcare company developing blood tests to try to detect cancer early.
The European Commission indicated at the time that the purchase would allow Illumina to expel its competitors and suppress fair competition, by acquiring too dominant a position in the market.
Just last month, Illumina CEO and director Francis deSouza resigned after the president was ousted by investor vote. His departure followed months of heated dispute with investor Carl Icahn, which had included complications surrounding the Grail acquisition.