Telediffusion de France

The Commission has cleared the acquisition of control of Telediffusion de France SA (TDF) by Charterhouse Capital Limited and Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC). TDF is a subsidiary of France Telecom and owns sites for TV and mobile phone transmission in France. The deal presents only minor overlaps between certain activities of TDF and Cegelec, which is jointly controlled by Charterhouse and CDC.

According to the transaction finalised at the end of July and notified for regulatory clearance in the European Union on October 11, Charterhouse Capital and CDC will acquire the majority of shares in TDF. France Telecom will remain the largest single shareholder, but will not exercise control over the company.

TDF provides over-the-air services to broadcasters and telecom operators and owns and operates terrestrial sites and infrastructure used for the transport of TV, radio and telecom signals. Services include the design, installation, management and maintenance of broadcasting and wireless networks, and the provision of production, post-production and play-out services.

The Commission’s investigation found minimal horizontal overlaps between the activities of TDF and Cegelec, which is jointly controlled by Charterhouse and CDC, in research, acquisition, installation, and upgrade of wireless networks. However, these did not give rise to competition concerns since the parties’ combined market share in the different markets is less than 10 per cent. They will also continue to face strong competition from larger competitors in France such as Tibco and GTIE/Graniou, which is controlled by Vinci, the French construction company.

In the course of the investigation, the Commission received complaints alleging that CDC’s mission to finance the development of broadband infrastructure in France, which it was granted by its shareholder, the French state, could unfairly favour TDF as a recipient of the finance money. But the investigation demonstrated that CDC would not be able to influence any financing decisions to favour TDF because, in particular, of the existence of public procurement rules, which require that local authorities organise public tender bids to award contracts. CDC is a state-owned financial institution, which has among its public service missions local development in France.

Note: Nycomed and Rhodia are still awaiting EU clearance. More details to follow in next month’s issue.