France’s Competition Authority (Autorite de la Concurrence) has imposed a fine of EUR40 million (USD42.7 million) on Amsterdam-based Altice Group in regards to the ‘Faber’ co-investment project agreed between Bouygues Telecom and SFR prior to Altice’s acquisition of the latter in November 2014 and its subsequent merger with Altice’s other unit in France (Numericable). The Faber deal was signed on November 2010 and was aiming to increase the fibre-optic deployments in 22 densely-populated municipalities. However, the Autorite de la Concurrence ruled that following the Numericable-SFR merger, the ‘pace of the connections slowed noticeably … running substantially behind the agreed schedule’, thus negatively affecting Bouygues Telecom. Along with imposing the fine, the competition authority has created a new deployment schedule aiming to ensure SFR Group carried out its commitments, with periodic penalty payments if it failed to do so.
TeleGeography notes that the latest development represents the third time Altice and its subsidiary SFR Group (previously Numericable-SFR) had been penalised following the November 2014 merger. In April 2016 Altice Group and Numericable were fined EUR15 million for non-compliance with several obligations related to the divestment of Outremer Telecom in the French overseas territories of Reunion and Mayotte, which was one of the conditions for the approval of the Numericable-SFR merger. Further, in November that year the watchdog sanctioned Altice EUR80 million for coordinating the commercial strategies of Numericable and SFR before the merger got the green light.