GDF’s Electrabel Loses EU Court Appeal of Merger-Breach Fine

GDF Suez SA’s Electrabel unit in Belgium lost a European Union court appeal against a 20 million-euro ($26 million) fine levied for taking over another company years before it sought formal clearance for the deal.

The EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, rejected the appeal by Electrabel in a ruling in Luxembourg today. The decision can be appealed.

The European Commission fined Electrabel in 2009 for notifying the EU’s antitrust regulator more than four years after it took control of French electricity generator Compagnie Nationale du Rhone in 2003. Electrabel notified the commission of the deal in 2008 and it was cleared in April of that year.

Electrabel needs to study the verdict before commenting, said Anne-Sophie Huge, a Brussels-based spokeswoman.

The Brussels-based commission today welcomed the ruling, saying it’s the first time an EU court has ruled on a fine levied for “implementing a concentration of EU dimension without prior notification to and approval by the commission.”

The court “confirmed that such early implementation constitutes a serious breach of EU merger control law,” the commission said in an e-mailed statement. “The court also makes clear that the commission is entitled to adopt effective and deterrent sanctions in case of such infringements.”

The case is: T-332/09, Electrabel v. Commission.

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