Orange ordered to pay rival Digicel close to $280 million

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French telecoms operator Orange on a closed retail store in Paris, France, April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French telecoms operator Orange has been ordered by a Paris court to pay local rival Digicel nearly 250 million euros ($280 million) in compensation for anti-competitive practices in the French Caribbean, the company said on Friday.

The Paris Appeals court ruled this week that Orange must pay Digicel 181.5 milion euros in damages and 68 million euros in interest, a spokesman for Orange said, confirming a report by Capital magazine earlier on Friday.

It is the biggest single financial penalty to be paid by the Paris-based group and the company is considering whether to launch an appeal in France’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, the spokesman said.

After a first ruling in 2017, Orange set aside 346 million euros in an escrow account to cover the cost of compensation.

The case dates back to the early 2000s, when state-controlled Orange dominated the telecoms markets in Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana.

France’s competition watchdog found in 2009 that Orange had hindered the rise of rivals in these markets, notably by signing exclusivity agreements with independent distributors and repair shops, prompting Digicel to sue for damages.

Digicel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Jamaica-based telecoms company was founded by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien in 2001 and is present in 31 markets across the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by David Goodman