LEGAL PRACTICE: FRANCE - MERGER CONTROL - GUN JUMPING - FINE - SENSITIVE EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION

Altice / Numericable: Did the French Competition Authority jump too far?

The Altice/Numericable decision from the French Competition Authority is striking in two respects: it is the highest fine (€80 million) ever imposed by a competition authority for gun jumping and one of the very first decisions in Europe to outline the rules applicable to the acquirer and a target in their business relations between the signing and closing of an M&A deal. The decision stirred controversy about certain standard SPA clauses and the composition of clean teams but the Authority has gone to great lengths to allay these concerns.

I. Introduction 1. In November 2016, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) fined French-based Altice/Numericable group and its recently-acquired telecom subsidiaries SFR and Virgin Mobile France for having coordinated their business strategies and commercial behaviour prior to merger control clearance in 2014. [1] 2. This decision is, in many respects, a landmark case. For the first time, the FCA adjudicated on a situation where, after due merger control notification of the contemplated transactions, the notifying party and the target companies “jumped the gun” by prematurely coordinating their strategic and commercial behaviour before obtaining FCA clearance. Neither the European Commission nor the FCA ever had the opportunity to rule on and sanction such conduct in the past. The

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Authors

  • Hogan Lovells (Paris)
  • Grall & Associés (Paris)

Quotation

Eric Paroche, Flora Oriot, Altice / Numericable: Did the French Competition Authority jump too far?, May 2017, Concurrences N° 2-2017, Art. N° 83875, pp. 231-239

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