EU's Almunia says French regulator to review Numericable, SFR deal

ATHENS Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:47am EDT

General view of the logo above a store of French cable operator Numericable in Paris, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

General view of the logo above a store of French cable operator Numericable in Paris, March 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

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ATHENS (Reuters) - The French competition authority rather than the European Union's watchdog will examine French cable company Numericable's (NUME.PA) proposed acquisition of Vivendi's (VIV.PA) telecoms arm SFR, the EU antitrust chief said on Thursday.

Numericable, backed by Franco-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi, won the battle for SFR last week in a deal that could create the second-biggest player in a reshaped French telecoms market.

The French government had backed rival bidder Bouygues (BOUY.PA), France's No. 3 mobile operator. Numericable is 40 percent owned by Drahi's Luxembourg-based holding company Altice.

Observers have said the European Commission, which is examining Telefonica's (TEF.MC) E-Plus deal in Germany and Hutchison Whampoa's (0013.HK) 02 Ireland takeover bid in Ireland, may seek to take on the French case as well to establish a coordinated approach towards telecoms mergers.

But European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the French agency would handle the Numericable deal.

"Prima facie, this operation will belong to the French authority," Almunia told reporters on the sidelines of a conference organized by the Hellenic Competition Authority.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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