January 16, 2019 / 1:22 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-EU court paves way for $2 bln UPS claim as annuls TNT bid veto

(Adds UPS comment)

BRUSSELS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Europe's top court opened the way to a $2 billion damages claim by U.S. delivery company UPS on Wednesday by annulling a 2013 decision to stop it buying Dutch firm TNT Express.

The European Court of Justice said the ruling followed a procedural error by the European Commission in its veto, which paved the way for FedEx Corp to acquire TNT Express for 4.4 billion euros in 2016, a deal it approved.

UPS, which has said it is seeking 1.74 billion euros ($1.98 billion) from the European Commission, said it was pleased the court agreed that the company had been given a fair hearing.

"The judgment in UPS's favour makes a number of points preserving a competitive environment in Europe by clarifying the procedure and relevant criteria for merger approval," it said.

The Commission had rejected UPS's planned 5.2 billion euro acquisition of TNT, saying it had not offered enough concessions to allay concerns that the deal would hurt consumers.

The court said the Commission had infringed UPS's rights of defence by using a different econometric model in its analysis than that used in its exchange of views and arguments with UPS.

Wednesday's ruling follows that of the General Court of the European Union, the EU's second highest court, in 2017. The Commission had appealed against that ruling. ($1 = 0.8783 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)

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