Illumina’s quest for Grail is far from over

As gambles go Illumina’s decision to close its $8bn acquisition of Grail ahead of a European Commission regulatory review is a high-stakes move, potentially putting the company on a collision course with the regulator. Illumina must have felt the need to act quickly since the terms of its deal with Grail expire on December 20. The EU had previously set a November 29 deadline for an antitrust ruling, but recent requests for more information looked likely to extend this date, risking Illumina missing its deal deadline. Illumina has, however, hedged its bets and will treat the two companies as separate entities, a sensible measure if the regulator eventually scuppers the deal. But by defying the EU and closing the deal Illumina now risks being fined up to 10% of its revenues. And antitrust issues remain potentially active in the US. The FTC has dropped its request to block the merger, but only because the EC was already blocking it, according to Stifel. A separate US administrative trial review is scheduled to begin on August 24, with a decision expected in the first quarter of 2022. With so much uncertainty it is no wonder that Illumina shares dropped 5% this morning.

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