French antitrust body fines meal vouchers cartel 415 mln euros

PARIS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - French antitrust body Autorite de la Concurrence on Wednesday fined the main French meal voucher firms nearly 415 million euros ($457 million) for preventing rivals from entering the market.

The companies targeted were Edenred France, Up, Natixis Intertitres, Sodexo Pass France and La Centrale de Reglement des Titres (CRT), the association that handles reimbursment of meal vouchers for the companies.

The antitrust body said the companies exchanged information about commercial strategy to keep out new market entrants.

Edenred, Sodexo and Natixis said they will appeal the decision.

Natixis, which was fined 83.32 million, denied all accusations of coordinating its businesss with its competitors.

Edenred, which was given the biggest fine of 157.1 million euros, denied the allegations and said it did not share the French antitrust body’s analysis, notably its assessment of competition on the French meal voucher market.

“The abundance of players, the wealth of innovations and the diversity of solutions, notably digital ones, offered to clients, merchants and users, attest to the openness and highly dynamic nature of the meal voucher market in France,” Edenred said.

Edenred shares closed 0.28% lower on Wednesday, in line with the broader market. Sodexho stock was down 0.8%.

Sodexo Pass France was fined 126.3 million euros, Up 45 million euros and CRT 3 milion euros. ($1 = 0.9073 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq )