Mastercard's bid for a part of Scandinavian payments group Nets is a significant threat to competition in Europe, the European Commission said today after it was asked by six national competition agencies to examine the deal. 

The US group announced the deal in August last year to buy three divisions of European rival Nets, covering corporate clearing, instant payments and e-billing. 

The Commission, which acts as the EU's competition enforcer, said it has accepted a request from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Britain to take over the case. 

Based on the information provided by the six agencies, it said the deal "threatens to significantly affect competition" in the Nordic area, the European Economic Area and in Britain. 

Mastercard will now have to gain EU approval for the transaction, the Commission said in a statement.