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France slaps fine on Altice for jumping merger gun

[PARIS] French regulators slapped an 80-million-euro (US$88 million) fine on the Altice telecoms group on Tuesday for merging two mobile units before receiving authorisation.

The French Competition Authority said the fine was the stiffest ever "in Europe and the world" for this type of violation.

Altice, a holding company owned by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, bought in 2014 France's second-largest mobile operator SFR for 17 billion euros, merging it into a cable and internet company it had previously purchased.

It also bought Virgin Mobile, a virtual operator of mobile phone services, and merged the two companies.

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"The Group chose to settle the matter in order to limit its financial exposure, given the level of penalties imposed for this type of procedural violation under the French Commercial Code," the companies said in a statement.

It added "the settlement demonstrates the Group's eagerness to restore a constructive dialogue with the regulator." AFP