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Exclusive: EU to accept Thomson Reuters concessions, end probe - sources

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators plan to accept revised proposals from Thomson Reuters to end an investigation into whether its control over its financial instrument codes was anticompetitive, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The sources, who were not from inside Thomson Reuters, said the decision meant the news and information company would not be penalized and that the investigation would be dropped.

The Commission had expressed concern that Thomson Reuters may have abused its dominant position in financial data by preventing customers from using its codes to get data from rivals and cross-reference them.

The case is part of an effort by EU regulators to ensure that traders and other users can get access to financial data at reasonable rates and be able to switch to competing services.

The coding case was opened in October 2009 and the company has offered various concessions since, with the latest round proposed in May. It is these concessions - including lower license fees for using the codes - that would now be accepted.

The EU Commission and Thomson Reuters competitors argued that the company's control of access to 'Reuters Instrument Codes' to tag stocks, bonds and other instruments reduced competition in the market for financial data.

A Thomson Reuters spokeswoman declined to comment but said: "Thomson Reuters has been working closely with the European Commission to come to a mutually acceptable outcome and looks forward to resolving this matter as soon as possible."

The Reuters news agency is part of Thomson Reuters.

The European Commission is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks, possibly before Christmas, one of the sources said. Both sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

"This investigation is ongoing. No further comment," Antoine Colombani, spokesman for competition policy at the European Commission, said in an email.

In December 2011, Thomson Reuters offered to open the classification to competitors for a licensing fee but competitors and trading firms sought more.

In July, the EU said Thomson Reuters had proposed to reduce license fees and simplify the fee structure for the RIC system, which is used to search and map data.

Users would also be allowed to use the codes for instruments traded over the counter.

As part of its wider look at financial data, the Commission also settled with credit rating agency Standard & Poor's last year. The Commission had opened an investigation over concerns that S&P was charging excessive fees for its proprietary data.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jane Barrett and Paul Ingrassia)

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