UAE Telecom Giant Vows Legal Fight After Moroccan Court Upholds Antitrust Ruling

UAE's e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, is digging in its heels for a legal battle after a Moroccan court upheld a hefty fine against its subsidiary, Maroc Telecom (MT). The Court of Appeal in Casablanca on July 3rd rejected MT's challenge to a January 2024 ruling by the Commercial Court of Rabat, which ordered the telecom company to pay 6. 368 billion Moroccan dirhams (approximately $645 million) to competitor Wana Corporate for alleged anti-competitive practices.

e&, a major shareholder in MT with a 53% stake, expressed strong disappointment with the verdict. The company maintains its subsidiary acted lawfully and intends to pursue "all available legal avenues" to overturn the decision. In a statement released on July 10th, e& emphasized its "firm belief" in the validity of MT's legal position and its commitment to protecting its investments in Morocco.

The dispute centers on accusations by Wana Corporate, Morocco's third-largest telecom operator, that MT engaged in anti-competitive behavior to stifle competition. Wana Corporate specifically alleged that MT hindered its access to infrastructure essential for service provision, thereby harming its business. While the specifics of the case remain confidential, the Moroccan court apparently found merit in Wana Corporate's claims, resulting in the significant financial penalty.

The hefty fine imposed on MT is not only a major financial blow but also raises concerns for e&'s broader operations in Morocco. The company highlighted the negative impact the ruling could have on its investments in the region. Analysts suggest the legal battle could drag on for some time, potentially creating uncertainty for e&'s Moroccan operations and investor sentiment.

This legal battle unfolds against the backdrop of Morocco's increasingly competitive telecom landscape. With the emergence of new players and growing consumer demand for advanced services, the Moroccan government has taken steps to promote a fair and competitive market. The recent antitrust ruling against MT can be seen as a signal from Moroccan authorities that they will take a strong stance against any practices deemed to stifle competition.

The outcome of this case will be closely watched by industry stakeholders across North Africa. A definitive ruling in favor of Wana Corporate could set a precedent for future antitrust cases in the region. For e&, a successful appeal could vindicate MT and potentially pave the way for smoother operations in Morocco. However, a final verdict upholding the initial ruling could force the company to reassess its strategies and potentially impact its future investments in the Moroccan market.

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