Altice fined €124m for early closing of PT Portugal deal

The European Commission said it imposed a €124.5 million fine on Netherlands-based cable and telecommunications company Altice “for implementing its acquisition of the Portuguese telecommunications operator PT Portugal before notification or approval by the Commission.”

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Companies that jump the gun and implement mergers before notification or clearance undermine the effectiveness of our merger control system.

“This is the system that protects European consumers from any merger that would lead to higher prices or reduced choice.

“The fine imposed by the Commission on Altice … reflects the seriousness of the infringement and should deter other firms from breaking EU merger control rules.”

In a statement, Altice said it will file an appeal against the Commission’s decision.

Altice said: “Altice fully disagrees with the Commission’s decision, and in particular, it considers that this case differs entirely from the French Numéricable/SFR/Virgin gun jumping case, in which Altice had agreed not to challenge the allegations brought against it.

“In Altice’s opinion, the transaction agreement governing the management of the target during the pre-closing period provided Altice with a consultation right on certain exceptional matters relating to PT Portugal, and was in accordance with well-established M&A market practice.

“Further, Altice considers that the elements in the Commission’s file do not establish the exercise of influence, as alleged by the Commission, by Altice over PT Portugal’s business conduct neither prior to the merger notification to the Commission nor prior to the Commission’s clearance.

“Besides, Altice’s right to a due process was violated in several respects during the Commission’s proceedings, in particular related to the investigation conducted by the Commission.

“This decision would have serious consequences for European companies; it also sets a precedent, which will have an impact on all future M&A transactions in Europe and consequently on the EU economy.

“Altice will file an appeal against the Commission’s decision before the EU General Court to request that the decision as a whole be annulled or, at the very least, that the sanction be significantly reduced.

“The Commission’s decision does not affect the approval granted by the European Commission on April 20, 2015 for the acquisition of PT Portugal by Altice.”