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Gun Jumping & Information Exchange - Altice Fined by European Commission

25 April 2018

Gun Jumping & Information Exchange

Again Altice – This Time the European Commission States Fine of EUR 124.5 Million

Altice received another serious fine for breach of the EU merger control rules on gun jumping (standstill obligations). The fine was issued because prior to the required clearance decision Altice was in a position to exercise decisive influence over PT Portugal and for pre-closing information exchange.

The fine relates to a transaction whereby Altice acquired the Portuguese telecoms provider PT Portugal in 2015. In its press release issued today - see here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-3522_en.htm - the Commission states that prior to the Commission’s clearance decision Altice

(i)    already had the legal right to exercise decisive influence over PT Portugal based on certain provisions in the SPA, e.g. veto rights concerning PT Portugal’s ordinary business; and

(ii)   in certain cases actually exercised decisive influence, e.g. by giving instructions concerning a marketing campaign and by seeking and receiving commercially sensitive information.

Although the decision is not out yet and we do not know all the facts of the case, today’s decision seems to confirm the EUR 80 million fine issued on Altice by the French Autorité de la Concurrence on 8 November 2016 which was based on a very similar line of reasoning. The Commission’s decision re-affirms the increased focus on procedural and in particular gun jumping issues.  

In its press release, the Commission highlights that it considers these infringements to be serious because they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system. EU merger rules require that merging companies notify planned mergers of Union dimension for review by the Commission ("the notification requirement") and do not implement them until cleared by the Commission ("the standstill obligation"). The standstill obligation prevents the potentially irreparable negative impact of transactions on the market, pending the outcome of the Commission's investigation.

In case of an infringement the Commission can impose fine of up to 10% of the company’s aggregated worldwide turnover.