Staples gets EU approval, pushes forward for US

Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) has received approval from European regulators for its proposed merger with Office Depot, and is pushing for the same from U.S. and Canadian agencies.

The European Commission gave the deal a thumbs up after the companies agreed to sell some of the smaller operations there, including Office Depot's contract distribution business in Europe and all operations in Sweden. They will also divest Office Depot's retail, online and catalog operations in Europe, subject to the closing of the acquisition.

"The commitments remove the entire overlap between the merging companies in all markets where concerns were raised, thus ensuring that an important alternative will remain available on these highly concentrated markets," the European Commission said in a statement.

Staples agreed to buy Office Depot for $6 billion in February 2015, and is still battling to finalize the merger.

"This is a significant step, and we're very pleased that the European Commission has approved this transaction," said Ron Sargent, Staples chairman and CEO. "The acquisition has been approved in Australia, New Zealand, China and Europe. Regulatory agencies around the world understand that this acquisition will allow Staples to provide increased value and service to customers of all sizes. We look forward to a full, impartial judicial review in the United States."

But Staples is facing strong opposition in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission has twice rejected the companies' proposal, in spite of Staples' offer to forfeit $1.25 billion worth of commercial contracts. Staples said it was still willing to negotiate with the FTC but is also considering litigation.

For more:
-See this Reuters story
-See this Staples announcement

Related stories:
Staples shakes up C-suite
FTC blocks Staples-Office Depot merger
Staples purchase of Office Depot not easy, EU investigates
Office Depot closes $1.2B merger with OfficeMax
Staples, Office Depot, one investor away from a merger?

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