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French competition watchdog levies €83.3M fine on Natixis' unit, 3 others

Autorité de la concurrence, France's competition watchdog, levied an €83.3 million fine on Natixis unit Natixis Intertitres, Société Anonyme over allegedly breaching French competition law.

The watchdog levied a total of €415 million in fines on meal voucher issuers — including Sodexo SA unit Sodexo Pass International S.A.S., Edenred SA and an association that handles reimbursements of said vouchers called Centrale de Règlement des Titres.

The regulator said in its statement that between 2010 and 2015 the aforementioned companies shared confidential data on their market shares every month through the CRT association, allowing them to limit the competition between them.

Additionally, between 2002 and 2018, the four voucher issuers implemented a series of agreements aimed at locking the market by controlling new entries and by "reciprocally banning the launch of dematerialized vouchers issuing" which the watchdog said hampered competition and slowed the development of technological innovation in France.

Natixis denied all accusations of circumventing competition law and said it intends to appeal the watchdog's decision. The bank added in its statement that it was "extremely surprised" by the decision and regrets that the regulator did not take its arguments into account.

Edenred "categorically" denied the watchdog's accusations, while Sodexo said the decision "manifests a completely inaccurate appreciation of the alleged practices." The two companies also echoed Natixis' sentiment of appealing the decision in their statements.

The regulator said the anti-competitive practices were first brought to its attention by Octoplus SAS and several professional trade unions, including Syndicat National de la Restauration Thématique, Syndicat National de la Restauration Publique Organisée and Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie, formerly known as Confédération des Professionnels Indépendants de l’Hôtellerie.

Natixis is majority-owned by French banking giant Groupe BPCE.