Sunday, 25 June 2017

Altice accused of jumping the gun...again

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Thursday 18 May 17

Cable group denies European Commission accusation that it implemented PT Portugal takeover before receiving antitrust approval.

The European Commission on Thursday accused cable group Altice of going ahead with its acquisition of PT Portugal before receiving approval from EU antitrust watchdogs. In a Statement of Objections sent to the company, the Commission claimed Altice put itself in a position to influence PT Portugal's strategy before notifying the Commission of the deal…

The European Commission on Thursday accused cable group Altice of going ahead with its acquisition of PT Portugal before receiving approval from EU antitrust watchdogs.

In a Statement of Objections sent to the company, the Commission claimed Altice put itself in a position to influence PT Portugal's strategy before notifying the Commission of the deal. In some instances, it allegedly exercised decisive influence over PT Portugal before the transaction was approved.

Such conduct, if proven, would violate the EU's notification requirement and standstill obligation.

"If companies jump the gun by implementing mergers prior to notification or clearance, they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system," said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in a statement. "The Statement of Objections sent to Altice shows how seriously the Commission takes breaches of the rules designed to protect the merger control system."

Altice reached a €7.4 billion deal with Oi to buy its Portuguese assets in late 2014, and gave formal notification to the Commission in February 2015. It received conditional clearance from the antitrust watchdog in April 2015.

Altice on Thursday denied the charges.

"Altice does not agree with the European Commission's preliminary conclusions, and will submit a full response to the statement of objections and contest all the objections," Altice said in a statement.

Altice has got previous when it comes to jumping the gun though.

In November 2016, it accepted an €80 million fine from France's competition authority for jumping the gun on its 2014 acquisition of mobile operator SFR.

An investigation by the authorities uncovered evidence that Altice's Numericable unit influenced SFR's strategic decision-making before the deal was cleared.

Similar malpractice was uncovered in relation to Numericable's acquisition of Virgin Mobile France.

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