April 24, 2018 / 10:18 AM / in a year

EU fines Altice $153 million for closing PT Portugal deal early

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) - The European Commission said on Tuesday it had fined French telecoms group Altice (ATCA.AS) 125 million euros ($153 million) for closing its 2015 takeover of PT Portugal before it had gained regulatory approval.

The European antitrust enforcer said such gun jumping practices undermine its system for scrutinizing mergers. The sanction does not affect its approval of the deal.

It signaled a tough approach last year with a 110 million euro fine against Facebook (FB.O) for giving misleading data during a review of its WhatsApp bid.

The Commission said certain provisions in Altice’s deal showed that the company exercised decisive influence and veto rights over the Portuguese company even before it was cleared.

“Altice breached both the notification and the standstill obligations. The Commission considers that these infringements are serious because they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system,” the EU competition enforcer said.

Reuters reported on April 18 that the company would be hit with a hefty fine for breaching EU merger rules.

Altice said it disagreed with the EU ruling and would challenge it in court. Its shares were down 1.25 percent to 8.34 euros at 1400 GMT, in line with the 1.15 percent decline in the STOXX Europe 600 Telecommunications index .SXKP.

The Commission is expected to rule in the coming months on Merck (MRCG.DE) and Sigma-Aldrich, General Electric (GE.N) and Canon (7751.T) after it opened investigations into the companies last year with allegedly breaching EU procedural rules in their respective merger deals.

($1 = 0.8194 euros)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; Editing by Alexander Smith

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