Exclusive: EU to fine Altice for jumping gun on PT Portugal deal - source

FILE PHOTO: Plastic pens with logos of Altice are pictured before a news conference in Paris, France March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are set to hit French telecoms and cable group Altice ATCA.AS with a hefty fine for concluding its 2015 acquisition of PT Portugal without first waiting for official approval, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The European Commission’s decision could come as early as next week, with the timing subject to change, the source said.

The sanction by the EU competition enforcer is expected to send a warning to companies that fail to respect procedural rules, such as jumping the gun and taking control of their targets or giving incorrect data before gaining the regulatory go-ahead.

Facebook was fined 110 million euros last year for giving misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

The Commission, which accused Altice of the violation in May last year, can impose fines up to 10 percent of a company’s global turnover for breaching EU rules. The company posted 23.43 billion euros in revenues last year.

Both the Commission and Altice, which is controlled by billionaire founder Patrick Drahi, declined to comment.

France’ s competition regulator imposed an 80 million euro fine on Altice two years ago for engaging in plans to buy SFR and Virgin Mobile before getting the necessary clearance.

The Commission last year also charged Merck MRCG.DE and Sigma-Aldrich, General Electric GE.N, and Canon 7751.T with breaching EU procedural rules in their respective merger deals. Rulings are expected in the coming months.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Edmund Blair