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SFR could face massive fine over 2014 acquisition

facade_campus_sfr_maxime_dufour__photographies_3Altice-owned French service provider SFR could face a large fine over the 2014 takeover by the company – then called Numericable – of mobile player SFR. Numericable subsequently adopted the SFR brand for all its activities, according to a French press report.

According to French financial daily Les Echos, SFR could face a penalty of up to €500 million – the heaviest fine every levied on a French operator – because it allegedly took control of the mobile operator before being authorised to do so by the country’s competition watchdog.

According to the paper, citing unnamed sources, the Autorité de la Concurrence has laid out evidence for its suspicion that Altice-owned Numericable effectively took over SFR’s management and started working with the mobile operator before it received the regulatory green light to do so in October 2014.

According to the paper’s sources, the regulator’s confidential report, which has just been submitted to SFR, highlights instructions given by Altice boss Patrick Drahi and other evidence that Numericable management effectively controlled SFR before the approved date.

Les Echos says that the competition regulator’s report points to evidence of a clear change of strategy by SFR in the intervening period, citing the rapid launch of Numericable’s TV box just one month after approval being granted.

SFR parent Altice is meanwhile subject to a separate enquiry by the European Commission over cooperating with Portugal Telecom ahead of being given regulatory approval to take over the Portuguese telecom player.