EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy rejected calls from MEPs yesterday to intervene in a planned transatlantic stock exchange merger, saying it was up to the companies and shareholders to decide.
Euronext, which operates stock markets in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Lisbon, has agreed to a $10bn bid from the New York Stock Exchange Group.
"It can't be left to market actors to decide. There is public interest at stake . . . The European Commission can't stand idly by," said Pervenche Beres, a leading Socialist member of the European Parliament, during a debate in the assembly.
"Some of these matters cannot be dealt with by market forces alone," Beres said.
Mr McCreevy rebuffed the calls.
"The Commission believes strongly that market forces and shareholder choices should determine the shape of exchange consolidation . . . We should not be in the business of picking winners according to a bureaucratic vision," McCreevy said.
Other possible deals are also in the offing after US stock market Nasdaq built a stake in the London Stock Exchange to 25pc.
McCreevy said the commission would be "very vigilant" of how a merged stock exchange would be regulated to ensure investor protection and market integrity are not weakened.
A preliminary assessment of the Euronext-NYSE deal did not indicate significant changes to regulation, but McCreevy said he would be in close contact with Euronext's supervisors. NYSE and Euronext have told Brussels the deal does not need to be considered by EU antitrust officials, McCreevy said.