S&P offers to cap license fees to end probe: EU

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's has offered to cap its licensing fees to end an antitrust investigation, EU regulators said on Monday, in a move that could help the credit ratings agency avert a possible fine.

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The European Commission had in November 2009 accused Standard & Poor's of abusing its dominant position by charging abusive prices for distributing its International Securities Identification Numbers (ISINs) in Europe. The regulatory charges followed complaints by several financial institutions and asset managers. The ISIN standard was developed by the International Organization for Standardization to provide cross-border identification for shares and bonds.

"S&P is committing to address our competition concerns by limiting its price for the distribution of identification numbers for U.S. securities and by abolishing charges altogether for those indirect users that get the numbers from other companies," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

"We will market test the commitments received and make them legally binding on S&P if satisfied with the results," he said.

If the pledge is accepted, S&P, which is owned by McGraw Hill Cos Inc <MHP.N>, would not have to pay a antitrust fine under the Commission's rules. The market test will run for a month.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Rex Merrifield and David Holmes)