Natixis Fined $93 Million Over Meal-Voucher Cartel in France

(Bloomberg) -- A Natixis SA unit was fined 83.3 million euros ($92.8 million) alongside three other issuers of meal vouchers by French antitrust watchdogs for preventing rivals from entering the market for the employee benefit for nearly two decades.

Edenred was fined the most -- 157.1 million euros -- in the case, France’s Autorite de la Concurrence said Wednesday in a statement. Sodexo SA must pay 126.3 million euros. Up got a 45 million-euro penalty and an association that handles reimbursements of meal vouchers for the companies was ordered to pay 3 million euros.

In France, employers give meal vouchers issued by companies such as Natixis Intertitres as a benefit for staff. The regulator said 4 million employees benefit from these vouchers, which can be used in restaurants or supermarkets.

France’s antitrust regulator routinely issues large penalties before the end of the year. In 2018, Whirlpool Corp. and five other appliance manufacturers were fined a total of 189 million euros in a price-fixing case. The Autorite broke the billion-dollar mark five years ago with a combined penalty for shampoo and toothpaste makers including L’Oreal SA and Unilever NV.

French regulators said the meal-voucher issuers and the association were fined a total of 415 million euros for preventing rivals from entering market and sharing confidential data on their market shares. The case began after competitor Octoplus filed a complaint.

Natixis, Edenred and Sodexo all said they would appeal the decision.

“The abundance of players, the wealth of innovations and the diversity of solutions, notably digital ones, offered to clients, merchants and users, attest to the openness and highly dynamic nature of the meal voucher market in France,” Edenred said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, the French Competition Authority fined six makers of fruit compote, including Groupe Lactalis and Andros, 58.3 million euros in total over a cartel between October 2010 and January 2014.

In the fruit-puree investigation, Coroos Conserven BV escaped a fine after it blew the whistle on the cartel, the French regulator said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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