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French authorities investigating delivery companies; FedEx, TNT, Royal Mail may face fines

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PARIS - Three of the world's leading package delivery businesses are being investigated by France's competition watchdog, and may face fines.

U.S.-based FedEx Corp., TNT Express NV from the Netherlands and Britain's Royal Mail PLC are all under investigation for unidentified malpractices.

Yannick Le Dorze of the French Competition Authority said Wednesday that an investigation is underway, but would not name the companies targeted or say what they are suspected of doing. He said it could take months before the probe is concluded.

FedEx, TNT Express and Royal Mail said in statements they could suffer "material" losses after receiving a notice from the French authority alleging breaches of anti-trust rules. The three companies all said they were co-operating with the competition authority.

The French authority, whose investigations can last years, notably sanctions companies for price-fixing and cartel activity.

FedEx said it received a notice June 30 about an investigation into "anticompetitive behaviour that is alleged to have occurred primarily in the framework of trade association meetings" involving general managers of Tatex, which it bought in 2012.

In a statement Wednesday, FedEx "expressed concerns that an investigation involving a company it acquired is being conducted," and said the probe involves a period predating its purchase of Tatex.

Shares in Royal Mail and TNT dropped when European markets opened Wednesday on news of the probe, then rallied.

Royal Mail shares were down 1.1 per cent at 483 pence in early afternoon London trading Wednesday. TNT shares fell 1.3 per cent to 6.39 euros.

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