Royal Mail revealed yesterday that it had set aside £18m to pay an out-of-court settlement with French competition authorities over an alleged breach of antitrust rules in the country.
The £18m pot set aside is split into £12m for the fine and £6m to tackle legal costs associated with the case, which is still under investigation in France.
One of Royal Mail’s subsidiaries in the country, GLS France, is alleged to have breached antitrust rules and is being investigated alongside a number of other delivery companies as part of a probe launched in 2010.
The Autorite de la Concurrence’s antitrust case is also looking into the French operations of TNT and FedEx.
In a statement yesterday, Royal Mail said it now expected the fine it faced to be reduced, following the offer to settle before the case concluded. The fine was likely to be announced in the second half of the 2015-16 financial year, the group added.
In September, TNT said it had set aside €50m (£39m) to deal with any fine resulting from the case. FedEx has yet to announce its position.
The news comes as Royal Mail approaches the first anniversary of its float this weekend, in what has been a turbulent year for the group.
In April, a National Audit Office report claimed that taxpayers had lost out to the tune of £750m after the government priced shares in Royal Mail too low. The company made its debut on the stock exchange on 11 October 2013 and share prices rose 38 per cent from 330p on the first day of trading. Since then business secretary Vince Cable has come under increasing pressure over the float.
Shares in Royal Mail dipped yesterday before recovering and closing up one per cent at 400p.