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Range of regulatory approvals needed for Willis buy

Aon Willis regulations

The proposed combination of Aon PLC and Willis Towers Watson PLC must clear regulatory hurdles in many jurisdictions but senior executives expressed confidence Monday that the deal will be approved.

“This transaction is governed by Irish takeover rules,” Greg Case, CEO Aon PLC said during a call with analysts. “We view the proposed transaction as highly complementary. It’s a very competitive industry and we’re confident we’re going to obtain necessary approvals across the portfolio,” Mr. Case said during the call.

Mr. Case’s comments came as analysts on the call questioned whether any part of the combined business potentially might raise antitrust issues and whether the deal would result in any “revenue dis-synergies.”

Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group PLC last year sold its aerospace practice to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. to address a potential overlap and smooth the path for JLT’s acquisition by Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.

In addition to approval by the Irish regulators, the deal will need to gain approvals in the United States and many other countries.

There are three different regulatory interplays, said Christa Davies, chief financial officer Aon PLC, during the call.

“We’re governed by the Irish takeover code and the panel and so that’s the body under which we filed the merger agreement,” she said. “We’re filing a proxy because we’re both listed in the U.S. and that’s under Securities and Exchange Commission guidance. We’ll be applying for regulatory approval in lots of countries around the world,” Ms. Davies said on the call.

Regulators’ views on the potential of the deal to reduce market competition “possibly could be the most difficult hurdle to get over,” said Clive O’Connell, London-based partner and head of insurance at law firm McCarthy Denning Ltd.

“The prospect of this merger and acquisition has been around for some years now. In the past, it was the monopolies and mergers aspect that people raised as a possible halt to it. The fact that it’s going ahead, one would feel it would indicate they have taken steps to ensure there’s no issue,” Mr. O’Connell said.

Mr. Case said Aon had gotten “great advice and counsel” on the proposed deal.