PARIS — European antitrust authorities launched a procedure that postpones their decision on the merger of Italian fashion eyewear company Luxottica and French lens-maker Essilor, officials said Friday.Plans for the 46 billion euro deal prompted the European Commission to launch an in-depth investigation into whether it could lead to higher prices for consumers.But Friday it said it has stopped the clock on the investigation, citing the need for the parties to supply necessary information for the investigation in a timely manner."This procedure in merger investigations is activated if the parties fail to provide, in a timely fashion, an important piece of information that the commission has requested from them,” it said in an e-mailed statement to WWD.“Once the missing information is supplied by the parties, the clock is restarted and the deadline for the commission’s decision is then adjusted accordingly," the commission added.The companies in October had requested a 10-day extension on the commission’s February deadline for its decision, pushing the date until Feb. 26. Now that the clock-stopping procedure has been launched, the final date will be determined once it is reactivated.Luxottica and Essilor revealed the tie-up early this year, and formally notified the commission in August.European authorities fear the combined company might have enough weight to exclude smaller rivals, noting Luxottica’s position as the largest supplier of eyewear in Europe and the world, while Essilor is the largest supplier of lenses. The two companies sell to opticians, who in turn, sell the products to consumers.
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