May 18, 2017 / 7:09 AM / 4 months ago

EU charges Altice with taking over PT Portugal before deal approved

FILE PHOTO: The logo of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice Group is seen during a news conference in Paris, France, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission accused telecoms and cable group Altice (ATCA.AS) on Thursday of breaching EU rules by taking control of PT Portugal before the deal had been approved by EU regulators.

Altice said it would challenge the allegations. “Altice does not agree with the European Commission’s preliminary conclusions and will submit a full response,” it said in a statement.

If the Commission concludes Altice acted too soon, it could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of the company’s annual worldwide turnover. Altice’s 2016 consolidated group revenues were 23.5 billion euros ($26.2 billion).

Altice agreed a 7.4 billion euro deal in December 2014 with Brazil’s Oi (OIBR4.SA) to acquire sole control of PT Portugal.

The Netherlands-based holding company notified the Commission in February 2015 of its plans and the Commission cleared the transaction with conditions in April 2015.

Altice, founded and controlled by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, was fined on similar grounds last year by the French competition authority with regards to its acquisition of SFR Group (SFRGR.PA).

“In today’s Statement of Objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Altice actually implemented the acquisition prior to the adoption of the Commission’s clearance decision, and in some instances, prior to its notification,” the Commission said in a statement.

It added the purchase agreement put Altice in a position to exercise influence over PT Portugal before notification and clearance and that in certain instances Altice had exercised “decisive influence”.

The Commission added the investigation did not impact its approval of the transaction.

additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Susan Thomas and Mark Potter

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