Bloomberg News

Vivendi Reviews Due as Agency Toughens Policing of Mergers

July 09, 2012

France’s Antitrust Authority will decide by July 24 whether to approve the revised union of Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Canal Plus pay-television unit with Television Par Satellite, its chief said today.

The regulator in September canceled the 2006 deal after finding that Canal Plus hadn’t met all the conditions imposed to ensure the merger didn’t harm competition.

Regulators in the deal are seeking diversity in the pay-TV industry, a greater range of packages for consumers, and steps that don’t “destabilize” the film industry, Bruno Lasserre, the agency’s chief, said today in Paris. The regulator won’t require the company to sell off its CanalSat distribution arm, he said.

The Authority has taken a tough stand on merger approval since 2009, when it took responsibility for authorizing deals from the finance ministry. So far this year, it has imposed conditions on seven deals, the same number as in 2011 and 2010 combined. The regulator has also fined companies for not living up to the conditions of merger authorizations.

Its cancellation of the Vivendi merger was the first time the Authority has done so for failure to comply with terms. The authority also imposed a 30 million-euro ($37 million) fine on Canal Plus.

Meat Seller

Separately today, the Authority fined a French meat seller 1 million euros for ignoring conditions to a plan to acquire a rival. Rather than divest a popular brand of beef, Groupe Bigard changed the label’s name and then found no bidders when it put the brand up for sale, the Authority said.

The regulator is scheduled to conclude by July 20 its investigation into Vivendi’s purchase of Bollore Group’s television assets, including channels Direct 8 and Direct Star.

The Authority’s review of Editions Gallimard SA’s purchase of French publisher Flammarion SA, a unit of RCS MediaGroup SpA (RCS), should be concluded by early fall.

Scrutiny of Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA (CO)’s offer for Groupe Galeries Lafayette’s stake in the Monoprix supermarket chain may take longer. The group said last month that it expects to have a deal by October 2013.

Spokesmen for Vivendi, Canal Plus and Bigard didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on the regulator’s actions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at hsmith26@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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