Free World

BRUSSELS, July 11, 2007 (AFP) – A top European court ordered EU antitrust regulators Wednesday to pay damages to French firm Schneider for wrongfully blocking its takeover bid of a rival, potentially opening a floodgate to other cases. The court’s ruling was one of two blows it dealt to the Commission on Wednesday after it also annulled a decision by EU antitrust regulators to order De Beers of South Africa to stop buying diamonds from Alrosa of Russia. Schneider Electric, an electric equipment company, is seeking 1.66 billion euros (2.3 billion dollars) in damages from the European Commission for errors it made in blocking its takeover of French rival Legrand.

Accusing the Commission of “grave and manifest failure” in its handling of the case, the Luxembourg-based European Court of First Justice awarded Schneider the right to damages, the amount of which remains to be determined.

In reaction, Commission spokesman for competition issues Jonathan Todd said “we will study the ruling carefully” and that a decision would be taken on whether to appeal in the two months and 10 days allowed.

He said that in “the worst case” the Commission would only be required to pay a “fraction” of the 1.6 billion euros sought by Schneider.

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