Sunday, 28 May 2017
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ptAltice faces a fine of up to 10% of its worldwide turnover if the European Commission (EC) upholds allegations the company took control of fixed and mobile phone operator PT Portugal before being given clearance.

In a ‘Statement of Objections’ sent to Altice, the EC has accused the company of breaking mergers and acquisitions rules by pressing ahead in January 2015, before being given clearance to proceed.

“The early implementation of transactions in breach of EU merger review procedural obligations is a very serious infringement,” the commission stated, in a less than cheery update.

A full investigation will now take place. If the claims are upheld, the maximum fine is 10% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover. Altice booked revenue of €23.5 billion in 2016, though it is not certain this worldwide earnings figure would form the basis of any penalty.

EC competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, “If companies jump the gun by implementing mergers prior to notification or clearance, they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system.

“The Statement of Objections sent to Altice shows how seriously the commission takes breaches of the rules designed to protect the merger control system.”

Altice does nott agree, of course, saying, “Altice does not agree with the European Commission’s preliminary conclusions, and will submit a full response to the statement of objections and contest all the objections.”

The case refers to Altice’s acquisition of PT Portugal, a deal cleared by the EC in April 2015 on condition Altice divested its existing Portuguese subsidiaries Cabovisao and ONI.

The then Economy Minister, Pires de Lima, also seems to have jumped the red light, stating at a refreshing dinner in January 2015 before the deal was authorised in Brussels, that, “as PT is a company that is relevant in the Portuguese economy, and which gives work to more than 10,000 people, it was important that there is clarification as to it future. Altice is welcomed because we have to nurture foreign investors and not denigrate them."

Patrick Drahi, the French owner of 60% of Altice's stock, is unkilely to feel the pinch should a fine be imposed. He last was valued at USD15 billion.