Altice given €80m spanking for jumping the gun

Super acquisitive telco conglomerate Altice has been spanked with an €80 million fine for prematurely engaging in post-M&A relations.

The French Competition Authority imposed the fine for what it considered to be “gun-jumping” in relation to the 2014 acquisition of SFR – basically trying to get things moving with the deal before regulatory blessing had been given. Altice protests its innocence, saying everything was done in good faith and that was simply hoping for a bit of efficiency.

Despite claiming it’s just a bunch of good honest dudes trying to do a tough job, Altice did take the fine in good spirit.

“The Group chose not to refute these practices and to accept the French Competition Authority’s settlement offer,” it said in a statement. “The Group chose to settle the matter in order to limit its financial exposure, given the level of penalties imposed for the type of procedural violation under the French Commercial Code.”

Perhaps the reason why it’s being such a good boy is because of what it says next.

“The Group is focusing on its key avenues for growth, which include investing in and deploying very high speed fibre optic and 4G/4G+ networks, and investing in content such as news, cinema and sports broadcasting rights.”

So it sounds like it’ll definitely want the regulator on side in the future.

If you look at the disparity in fines between this and others dished out in the market over the past twelve months, there are two ways it can be viewed. Altice can consider itself pretty unlucky that being a bit eager has cost it €80 million, that’s one. The second is that TalkTalk and Vodafone can consider themselves almightily fortunate to get away with a combined fine of less than £5 million for their collective misgivings.

Vodafone was fined £4.3 million last month for a billing balls-up, which led to customers on “inactive” pay as you go tariffs not being credited when topping up their accounts. That fine, dished out by Ofcom, was intended to show that the 10,000 customers affected shall not be taken for granted.

TalkTalk, on the other hand, massively got away with one. It got fined a paltry £400,000 for failing to prevent last year’s cyber-attack which lost over 150,000 customers’ data. In roughly 10% of cases, bank account details and sort codes were also stolen – so 15,656 people had their banking details half-inched.

And Altice got €80 million for jumping the gun…

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