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Singapore competition watchdog continues review of clinical laboratories' planned merger

THE Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) is putting the planned merger of two private clinical laboratories under the microscope, over potential competition concerns.

Private investment firm TPG Capital Asia's acquisition of Innovative Diagnostics and Quest Laboratories has led to third-party feedback that alternative service providers may not be able to provide enough competition after the two firms are merged, the CCCS said on Monday.

The government watchdog will now move on to the second stage of its assessment of the deal.

The parties involved can also offer commitments to address the potential competition concerns.

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This step follows an initial quick review if the CCCS is unable to conclude that the merger will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in the market.

The CCCS noted that Innovative and Quest, which carry out in-vitro diagnostic tests of human samples, "are generally seen as the closest competitors to each other pre-transaction".

Industry alternatives such as hospital laboratories may primarily focus on serving their own patients, said the CCCS, and could limit third-party access to their services.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that other private independent clinical laboratories may not be able to meet certain customer needs as they have a smaller range of tests than Innovative and Quest.

The CCCS aims to complete the second phase of its review within 120 business days.

TPG, through Pathology Asia Holdings, bought Quest and other Asian laboratories from Australia-listed Healthscope for A$279 million (S$279 million) in August.

No deal size was given for the purchase of Innovative, which is run by former Healthscope executives.