FedEx, Royal Mail, TNT Targeted in France Antitrust Probe

FedEx Corp., TNT Express NV, and Royal Mail Plc said they’re among delivery companies that may be fined by France’s competition regulator in an investigation of the country’s parcel market.

TNT and London-based Royal Mail received notifications from the Autorite de la Concurrence regarding possible antitrust breaches by their divisions in France, the two European delivery services said today in separate statements. FedEx made the probe public in a July 14 filing. Those companies said the process could result in “material” fines or losses. Deutsche Post AG and La Poste also said they have businesses that are part of the probe.

For TNT and Royal Mail, a fine could “run into tens of millions of euros,” according to Gert Steens, an analyst at SNS Securities in Amsterdam.

The French competition authority has been the busiest national antitrust regulator in the European Union, opening 228 investigations in the past 10 years compared with 175 started by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office. The European Commission initiated 237.

The French probe is independent of investigations by the EU, which focuses on cross-border practices. The European Commission, the EU executive arm that oversees antitrust cases, has imposed 8.45 billion euros ($11.4 billion) in cartel fines since 2010, according to data through June 25.

Since 2010

TNT said the French unit of the Hoofddorp, Netherlands-based company has been cooperating with regulators since the probe started in 2010. Royal Mail said its GLS France business, a ground-based parcel-delivery arm, is being investigated. Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx said alleged anticompetitive behavior at its French unit, which was known as Tatex when the U.S. operator acquired it in 2012 for $55 million, occurred primarily at trade-association meetings before the purchase.

Bonn-based Deutsche Post said in an e-mailed statement that the objections refer to its French DHL Express SAS unit. Paris-based La Poste spokeswoman Stephanie Fraisse said its Chronopost and Exapaq units are targeted by the investigation.

Stock Reaction

Royal Mail shares fell 2.2 percent to 478 pence at 2:09 p.m. in London after making their the steepest intraday drop since June 5. TNT dropped 0.7 percent to 6.43 euros in Amsterdam, after declining as much as 3.8 percent earlier. Deutsche Post rose 1 percent to 26.26 euros. FedEx rose 0.9 percent to $153.20 in New York.

Yannick Le Dorze, a spokesman for the French regulator, declined to comment on the parcel-service probe as the investigation is still under way.

The most recent EU shipping-industry fine was a combined 169 million-euro penalty imposed in March 2012 on companies including Kuehne & Nagel International AG and Panalpina Welttransport Holding Ltd. for price fixing of freight-forwarding surcharges. United Parcel Service Inc., Ceva Group Plc, UTi Worldwide Inc., Expeditors International of Washington Inc., Nippon Express Co., Agility and DSV A/S were also punished then for operating four separate cartels.

Oesterreichische Post AG, Austria’s main mail operator, said today that it has no operations in France and isn’t subject to the probe. Piet Van Speybroeck, a spokesman at Belgian mail service Bpost SA, said the company isn’t aware of an investigation in France.

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