BRUSSELS, May 10 (Reuters) - Belgian power grid operator Elia and its Australian ally secured EU regulatory clearance on Monday for their acquisition of Swedish power company Vattenfall's high-voltage grid in Germany. Elia and Australian investment group Industry Funds Management paid close to half a billion euros ($671 million) for the German grid which amounts to half of the electricity network in Europe's largest economy. "The (European) Commission's investigation confirmed that the proposed merger would not close off the market to competition," the European Union competition watchdog said in a statement, citing low market shares in the relevant markets. Elia and IFM, which are also taking on 320 million euros in debt, expect to complete the deal in the second quarter of 2010. Utilities across Europe are selling profitable but state-regulated energy grids to cut debt and focus on more profitable power markets in which they often operate in an oligopoly. E.ON, Germany's largest utility, struck a deal in November last year to sell its domestic long-distance high-voltage grid to Dutch grid operator TenneT. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee) ($1=.7453 Euro) Keywords: VATTENFALL ELIA/EU (email@example.com; tel +32 2 287 6844; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.
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