UPDATE 1-EU regulators fine fish farmer Marine Harvest 20 mln euros

Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:59am EDT

(Combines EU and Marine Harvest statements, adds detail)

BRUSSELS/OSLO, July 23 (Reuters) - European Union regulators have handed down a 20 million euro ($27 million) fine on Norway's Marine Harvest ASA, the world's biggest fish farmer, for acquiring smaller rival Morpol without first securing antitrust approval.

Marine Harvest, which accounts for more than a fifth of the global farmed fish trade and is controlled by shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, took control of the smaller Polish company in a cash and share deal worth 937 million crowns in 2012.

"Marine Harvest should have been aware of its obligations to notify and await clearance from the Commission before proceeding with the acquisition," the European Commission said in a statement.

The company said it disagreed with the decision and would likely contest it. "Marine Harvest will now carefully consider the options available to it. It appears, however, more likely than not that the decision to fine the company will be referred to the EU courts," it said in a statement.

Shares in Marine Harvest were little affected by the announcement, trading up 1.6 percent at 1039 GMT, among the best performers on the Oslo bourse whose benchmark index was up 0.5 percent.

The fish farmer said in March it did not expect the fine to have a material impact. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo)