Marine Harvest considering appeal of EUR20m fine

Marine Harvest considering appeal of EUR20m fine

The European Commission has fined Marine Harvest EUR20m (US$26.9m) after concluding that the Norwegian seafood group breached European merger control rules in its takeover of Morpol.

According to the EC, Marine Harvest took control of Morpol without first obtaining EU merger clearance.

Under the EU Merger Regulation, mergers and acquisitions with an EU dimension must be notified to and authorised by the Commission before they are implemented. The EC suggested that by initially acquiring a 48.5% stake in Morpol Marine Harvest took "de facto sole control" over the Norway-based firm in December 2012.

The acquisition was not cleared by the European authorities until September 2013.

Responding to the news, Marine Harvest questioned both the Commission's conclusion and the level of the fine imposed.

"The take-over of Morpol was structured as an acquisition of the initial shareholding followed by an immediate mandatory offer. Marine Harvest made it clear to both the market and Morpol that no control would be taken before the acquisition had been cleared by the EU," the company said in a statement.

The group added that the size of the fine "appears to deviate significantly" from similar cases where fines were imposed.

The EC insisted, however, that the fine is "both proportionate and adequate" to ensure "sufficient deterrence".

Marine Harvest said that it is now evaluating whether to lodge an appeal. "Marine Harvest will now carefully consider the options available to it. It appears, however, more likely than not that the decision to fine the company will be referred to the EU courts," the company said.