France slaps record fines on steel cartel

France slaps record fines on steel cartel

Paris: France’s competition authorities on Tuesday slapped a record €575 million (Rs3,766 crore) in fines on 11 companies, including subsidiaries of global steel giant ArcelorMittal, for running a cartel in the steel trading sector from 1999 to 2004.

The damage to the French economy caused by the cartel amounts to “hundreds of millions of euros", France’s Conseil de la Concurrence said in a statement.

ArcelorMittal steel trading subsidiary PUM Service Acier received the largest fine, €288 million, for its role as one of three “leaders" of the cartel, said Virginie Guin, a spokeswoman for the regulator.

That makes it the largest fine ever imposed on a single company by the regulator, Guin said.

ArcelorMittal spokesman Jean Lasar declined to comment.

The other two cartel leaders were KDI, a subsidiary of the Duisberg, Germany-base metals distributor Klockner & Co. SE, which received a €169 million fine; and Lyon-based Descours and Cabaud, which was fined €82.5 million, the regulator said.

Eight other firms, including two separate subsidiaries of ArcelorMittal, were fined smaller amounts of €100,000-13 million. In addition, the French Federation of Metal Distributors was fined €124,500 for its role in the cartel.

The fines were welcomed by the European Commission, which has undertaken a Europe-wide crackdown on price fixing in recent years.

“The commission is always very happy when competition authorities pursue cartel cases," said European Union spokesman Jonathan Todd.

The companies have one month to decide whether to appeal the fines.

Constant Brand in Brussels also contributed to this story.