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French regulators contrast with UK counterparts over Eurotunnel deal

The acquisition and operation of a former SeaFrance ferry service by Eurotunnel is now in the balance after French regulators gave it the green light.

13 November 2012

French competition regulators have passed the deal under which Eurotunnel completed the acquisition of three ferries formerly owned by SeaFrance earlier this year, a decision at odds with that made in Britain by the Office for Fair Trading (OFT).

The business negotiations for the Channel Tunnel operator were simple enough as SeaFrance went bust this year, but its use of the vessels to provide cross-channel services has been seen as anti-competitive by P&O, the Financial Times reports.

P&O called the French decision "politically expedient", but said it takes "comfort" from the fact that Eurotunnel may yet be forced to stop the ferry service by the UK's Competition Commission, after the OFT recently decided to refer the matter to them.

The operation of the former SeaFrance ferries on the Dover to Calais route concerned the OFT because it felt the strength of Eurotunnel would be such that only P&O could provide significant competition.

OFT chief economist Amelia Fletcher said: "We are concerned that the merger could further strengthen Eurotunnel's position in the market for cross channel transport and prices could go up as a result."

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