Source AP ©

EU approved General Electric Co.'s bid to buy diagnostics business of Abbott Laboratories

European Union antitrust regulators on Wednesday approved General Electric Co.'s EUR5.99 billion (US$8.3 billion) bid to buy the diagnostics business of Abbott Laboratories.

The European Commission said that "after careful examination ... the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition" in the EU market.

The EU greenlight follows similar approval by U.S. regulators in February, approving the deal without requiring any changes.

General Electric will acquire Abbott's in-vitro diagnostics and point-of-care diagnostics businesses, the companies said when they first announced the transaction in January.

The in-vitro diagnostic division tests blood and urine samples to diagnose diseases and other conditions. Abbott expects to receive US$6 billion (EUR4.4 billion) in after-tax cash from the transaction, the company said last month.

Abbott plans to use the money to pay down debt and supplement share repurchases. The two companies said in January that they expected the transaction to close in the first half of 2007.