The European Commission has launched an investigation into chemical producer Huntsman’s acquisition of businesses from rival Rockwood, prompted by fears of reduced consumer choice.

The Commission’s probe under the EU Merger Regulation centres on concerns that competition may be reduced in the local market for sulphur-based titanium dioxide, used for whitening clothing and other materials.

Its investigation will centre on US-based Huntsman’s acquisition of Rockwood’s Sachtleben business, which produces titanium dioxide and functional additives.

Noting that the European Economic Area (EEA) market for titanium dioxide is worth EUR3bn, the Commission said its preliminary investigation had raised competition concerns, given that Huntsman and Sachtleben were the two leading suppliers and had been close competitors.

“The removal of the competitive constraint that Huntsman and Sachtleben currently exert on each other may therefore lead to less choice for customers and potentially to higher prices for the products concerned,” the Commission said.

It has 90 working days, until 22 July, to take a decision on the issue.