Apple’s share price fell 13% as markets reacted to a record €1.1bn ($1.2bn) antitrust fine and continued coronavirus disruption.
French competition authority Autorité de la Concurrence found the technology giant and two of its partners, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, had agreed not to compete against one another instead of setting their own commercial policies.
Apple is also accused of stopping its premium resellers from being able to lower prices.
This, the watchdog said, “thereby sterilised the wholesale market for Apple products”.
Isabelle de Silva, president of the authority, said in a statement that the Apple fine was the “heaviest sanction pronounced against an economic player, in this case Apple, whose extraordinary dimension has been duly taken into account”.
Tech Data and Ingram Micro were fined €63m and €76m respectively.
In a statement, Apple said it would appeal the fine, which is the result of an eight-year investigation.
“The French Competition Authority’s decision is disheartening. It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards 30 years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies across all industries. We strongly disagree with them and plan to appeal.”
The Apple fine is the second levied by France’s competition and fraud watchdog this year after it was fined €25m in February for slowing down old iPhones.
Apple fine: Share price takes another hammering
Stock markets around the world have been in freefall since February as the COVID-19 pandemic causes major disruption to travel, trade and everyday life.
Upon the open of US markets, Apple’s share price plummeted 13% from its position on Friday.
The technology orientated NASDAQ index, on which Apple lists, fell 6.12% when markets opened. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 plunged 9.71% and 8.14% respectively, causing the automatic circuit breakers to kick in and pause trading for 15 minutes.
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When trading resumed, Apple’s share price had started to recover.
Before markets opened today Apple’s share price had been down 7% since the start of the year and down 15% from its 2020 high point in mid-February.
Since late February the outbreak has increased in severity, with more than 174,000 cases globally as of 2pm GMT on 16 March.
Apple’s supply chains have been particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak. It was forced to close its factories in China, where roughly half of the world’s iPhones are made, in early February.
The company also closed its retail stores in mainland China, where the outbreak originated back in December.
Apple has now reopened factories and retail stores in China after the number of new local cases started to fall.
But on Saturday the world’s most valuable company closed all of its stores outside of China for two weeks as the virus forced lockdowns across Europe and major disruption in the US.
In 2019 Apple recorded revenues of $260bn. Under normal circumstances, a $1.2bn fine would be painful but not world ending. Amid the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic, such a fine will be felt more acutely.