Today the European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections alleging that multinational telecommunications company Altice (the Netherlands), breached the EU Merger Regulation by implementing its acquisition of telecommunications operator PT Portugal before notification or approval by the Commission.

The EU's Merger Regulation requires that merging companies notify transactions prior to their implementation and do not implement transactions unless and until they have been notified and cleared by the Commission. The obligation to notify concentrations prior to their implementation safeguards the Commission's ability to detect and investigate concentrations. The standstill obligation prevents the potentially negative impact of transactions on the market, pending the outcome of the Commission's investigation. The early implementation of transactions in breach of EU merger review procedural obligations is a very serious infringement, as it undermines the effective functioning of the EU merger control system.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, 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".

In February 2015, Altice notified the Commission of its plans to acquire PT Portugal. The Commission cleared the transaction subject to conditions on 20 April 2015.

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. In particular, the Commission considers that the purchase agreement between the two companies put Altice in a position to exercise decisive influence over PT Portugal before notification or clearance of the transaction, and that in certain instances Altice actually exercised decisive influence over PT Portugal.

If the Commission were to conclude that Altice did implement the transaction prior to its notification or prior to adoption of the clearance decision, it could impose a fine of up to 10% of Altice's annual worldwide turnover.

Source: Commission press release 18/5/2017.