Dutch telecoms and cable group Altice, chaired by founder and controlling shareholder Patrick Drahi, is expecting to receive a hefty fine from EU antitrust regulators.The fine is for concluding its 2015 acquisition of telecommunications operator PT Portugal before notification or first waiting for official approval. Two years ago, France’ s competition regulator imposed an 80 million euro fine on Altice for engaging in plans to buy SFR and Virgin Mobile before getting the necessary clearance. According to a Reuters report, the European Commission’s decision could come as early as next week, with the timing subject to change.
Jumping the gun
The sanction by the EU competition enforcer will send a warning to companies failing to respect procedural rules, such as jumping the gun and taking control of their targets or giving incorrect data before gaining the regulatory go-ahead. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'If companies jump the gun by implementing mergers prior to notification or clearance, they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system. The Statement of Objections sent to Altice shows how seriously the Commission takes breaches of the rules designed to protect the merger control system.'
The Commission, which accused Altice of the violation in May last year, can impose fines up to 10 per cent of a company’s global turnover for breaching EU rules. The company posted 23.43 billion euros in revenues last year. Last year, Facebook was fined 110 million euros last year for giving misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. Also last year, they charged Merck and Sigma-Aldrich, General Electric and Canon, with breaching EU procedural rules in their respective merger deals.