Dutch dairy groups Campina and Friesland Foods today (3 November) struck a relaxed tone after the EU said it was extending its inquiry into the proposed merger between the two companies.

The European Commission said that the investigation will go on for a further 15 working days. The probe, which started in July, is now scheduled to finish on 23 December.

A spokesperson for the Commission told just-food that it needed more time to look into the deal, although she declined to comment further. When the Commission first instigated the probe this summer, it indicated that the merger could break EU competition rules in certain sectors and mean higher prices for consumers.

Nevertheless, Campina and Friesland said today that such in-depth EU investigations "regularly" need extensions before a conclusion is reached.

In a joint statement, the two companies expressed their "confidence" that the Commission will recognise the benefits of the merger.

"The two companies believe that it is in their interests the Commission will use this extra time to fully take on board the economic and consumer benefits stemming from the intended merger," the statement read.

"Both companies are confident that in the European Commission's final analysis not only will the economic and consumer benefits stemming from the merger become evident, but so will the continued dynamism and competitiveness of the concerned dairy markets."

Campina and Friesland also insisted that they had accounted for the extension when they first announced their plan to merger late last year, when they said a decision from the Commission was not to be expected before the fourth quarter of 2008.

The two sides struck a deal in April, unveiling plans to create FrieslandCampina, one of the world's largest dairy firms with combined sales of EUR9.1bn (US$11.53bn).

At the time, Campina and Friesland said the enlarged company would have 22,000 employees, 17,000 member farmers and over 100 production and distribution facilities worldwide.

Officials from Campina and Friesland could not be reached for further comment.