The European Union is fining a number of plastics additives producers, including Ciba, Elf Aquitaine SA and Baerlocher GmbH, 173.9 million euros ($260.5 million) for price fixing and forming cartels.
According to the Brussels-based European Commission the EU's executive arm Akzo Nobel NV, Baerlocher, Ciba, Elementis plc, Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France), GEA, Chemson AG, Faci, Reagens SpA and AC Treuhand AG fixed prices and exchanged sensitive commercial information about tin stabilizers between 1987 and 2000, and about epoxidized soy bean oil/esters between 1991 and 2000.
Combined markets for tin stabilizers and ESBO/esters in the European Economic Area were worth about 121 million euros ($181.3 million) in those periods.
These companies must learn the hard way that breaking the law does not pay and that repeat offenders will face stiffer penalties, EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
The heaviest fine was imposed on Ciba (68.4 million euros, or $102.5 million) followed by Akzo Nobel (40.6 million euros, or $60.8 million).
A spokeswoman for BASF SE, which acquired Ciba Holding AG in April, said the company will appeal the fine, adding that Ciba sold the businesses accused of price fixing in 1998.
Akzo Nobel says it is taking time to analyze the merits of the decision, stressing a strict zero tolerance policy throughout the company for any anti-competitive behavior. Baerlocher refused to comment, while Chemson and Elf did not respond to requests.
Swiss consultancy AC Treuhand also was fined 348,000 euros ($521,000) for aiding the cartel and hosting monthly meetings at its Zurich offices.
Regulators increased Arkema/ Elf Aquitaine's fine because it has been found guilty of joining cartels in the past. Arkema, Baerlocher and Ciba had their fines reduced in exchange for cooper- ating with investigators.
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