Cartel fined US$ 265 million

By Chris Sleight27 February 2008

The European Commission has announced fines totalling € 184 million (US$ 265 million) to a group of five bitumen suppliers accused of operating a cartel in the Spanish bitumen market between 1991 and 2002. The companies named in the cartel were BP of the UK, Spain's Repsol and Cepsa, Nynäs of Sweden and Portugal's Galp. Repsol, Cepsa and Galp say they will appeal against the fines.

The Commission's investigation was launched in October 2002, following an application for immunity from BP under the Commission's leniency rules. By reporting the cartel BP was excused any financial penalty for its participation.

Cepsa received the heaviest fine – € 83.9 million (US$ 121 million), similar to Repsol's € 80.5 million (US$ 116 million) fine. Nynäs and Galp were penalised less heavily at € 10.6 million (US$ 15.3 million) and € 8.7 million (US$ 12.5 million) respectively. The Commission waived a further € 148 million (US$ 213 million) of fines under its leniency programme including all of the € 66.4 million (US$ 95.6 million) penalty that could have been imposed on BP.

Cepsa, Galp and Repsol all say they will appeal against the fines. A statement from Cepsa said it was not responsible for the cartel and described its fine as “unjustified and disproportionate.” Galp took a similar stance, while Repsol cites its co–operation with the investigation as a mitigating factor.

A year ago the Commission fined a cartel of 14 companies active in the Dutch bitumen market a total of € 267 million (US$ 385 million). BP and Nynäs were also included in that group, although once again BP's fines were waived under leniency rules because it informed the Commission of the cartel's existence. Nynäs was fined € 20.3 million (US$ 29.3 million).

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