The European Commission is to launch an in-depth inquiry into the consolidation of six Austrian electricity suppliers. Under the deal, Austria’s largest utility, Verbund, would pool its electricity supplies with those of EVN, Energie Oberoesterreich, Bewag, Wien Energie and Linz. After an initial one-month enquiry, commission competition regulators can move into a four-month “phase two investigation”, which gives the EC or national regulators time to look deeper into the competitive effects of a merger. The EC has confirmed that an investigation has been launched but suggested that moving to a phase two investigation was usual in deals of this size. EVN stated that they were expecting an end to the merger inquiry by early June.

Verbund believes that the merger would create ‘sustainable synergies’ of 39 million euros per year, mainly in customer account administration and records. However the real purpose of the merger is to create a defensive ‘Austrian energy solution’ in the form of an electricity service provider capable of holding its own in company with the major European electricity utilities, an idea that was first discussed publically by Verbund and other utilities more than a year ago.