Nexans Chief Says Europe Antitrust Rules Help Asian Rivals

Nexans, the French cable maker under investigation for price-fixing, said rivals in Asia and other regions outside of Europe have a competitive advantage when pursuing global expansion because they are not under the same level of scrutiny.

“To fight in normal conditions we need a level playing field, which isn’t currently the case,” Nexans Chief Executive Officer Frederic Vincent said in an interview on BFM radio today. “We need to be on the same footing. European authorities mustn’t shoot the feet of European companies.”

European antitrust sanctions can be equal to as much as 10 percent of a company’s annual sales, about treble the equivalent fines in the U.S., the CEO of the Paris-based company said. Fines in Japan may represent “just a few million euros,” and they don’t exist at all in the Middle East, he said.

Nexans and Milan-based Prysmian SpA said last year they were cooperating with European Union regulators in a price- fixing investigation on high-voltage undersea cables. At the same time, the two European companies have been outbid in their pursuit of cable maker Draka Holding NV by China’s Tianjin Xinmao S&T Investment Corp.

Xinmao’s is offering 20.50 euros a share for Draka, valuing Amsterdam-based company at 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion). That threatens to derail an 840 million-euro offer from Prysmian that was accepted by Draka management. Nexans’s 731-million euro non-binding bid was rejected by the Dutch company, and the French company ended its pursuit.

“The Chinese price increase is incredible,” Vincent said. “In a globalization context, we need everybody to have the same rules.”

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