European regulators OK GE's purchase of Instrumentarium
General Electric Co. (GE) on Wednesday cleared a major hurdle in its proposed $2 billion acquisition of  Instrumentarium Corp., as the European Commission (EC) cleared the proposal with certain caveats.

In order to complete the transaction, GE has agreed to sell Instrumentarium's Spacelabs patient monitoring business. GE in July reportedly offered to divest or spin off the unit to satisfy the EC's antitrust concerns. Instrumentarium acquired Spacelabs Medical in July 2002 for approximately $140 million.

 Spacelabs' next owner also would be allowed to distribute and market certain Instrumentarium anesthesia machines non-exclusively and Cardiocap/5 gas monitor exclusively in the Europe.

Just last week, GE extended its tender offer to Instrumentarium shareholders past the self-imposed deadline of Aug. 29. The new expiration date is designated as "10 Finnish banking days following receipt of the final required regulatory approval." GE added that it will announce and exact date "as soon as possible" after it received final EC clearance.

GE and Instrumentarium both still expect to complete the acquisition in the third quarter, which ends at the close of this month. Both companies also say they "continue to work closely and constructively with other regulatory authorities to complete the remaining approvals required."

The GE-Instrumentarium transaction also is under review by the U.S. Justice Department.