The European Commission announced Dec. 21 that it is investigating Aon’s proposed acquisition of Willis Towers Watson, a deal that would combine two leading providers of commercial risk brokerage services, re-insurance brokerage, and retirement and health and welfare services to commercial customers. Aon and WTW do business in 120 and 140 countries, respectively.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, the EC’s chief merger officer, said the purpose of the probe is to assess “whether the transaction could lead to negative effects for competition, less choice and higher prices for European customers in the commercial risk brokerage market.”
The Commission’s initial market investigation identified a number of concerns in relation to the supply of commercial brokerage services especially to large multi-national customers, who depend on brokers with a high level of expertise and a global presence.
In particular, the Commission is concerned that the transaction may reduce the competition in these segments:
- Brokerage services to large multi-national customers in the risk classes property and casualty; financial and professional services; credit and political risk, cyber and marine.
- Brokerage services to customers of all sizes for space and aerospace manufacturing risks as well as in a few additional risk classes in specific national markets.
At this stage, EC says “Aon and Willis Towers Watson are two of the very few brokers that are able to provide these services on a multi-national scale.”
In addition to insurance brokerage services, the commission says it will also examine other markets in which Aon and Willis Towers Watson are active:
- Reinsurance brokerage services, which comprises the mediation of risks between insurance and reinsurance companies. “The transaction would combine two of the three leading reinsurance brokers and thereby may reduce choice for insurance companies placing their risks with reinsurance companies,” the EC says.
- Consulting and administration services to companies regarding the retirement, health and welfare schemes offered to their employees.
The EC says it is working with competition authorities around the world in conducting its examination of the deal.
Aon and Willis Towers Watson decided not to submit commitments during the initial investigation. The EC has until May 10, 2021, to make a decision.