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November 12, 2009

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EU fines 10 firms for price fixing

EUROPEAN Union regulators yesterday jointly fined Akzo, Ciba, Elf Aquitaine and seven others 173 million euros (US$259 million) for fixing the price of plastic additives.

Ciba was fined 68.4 million euros, Akzo was ordered to pay 40.6 million euros, Elementis must pay 32.57 million euros and Elf Aquitaine 28.6 million euros. Baerlocher, Reagens, GEA and Faci were fined smaller amounts. Chemtura escaped a fine for alerting the EU executive to the cartel.

The European Commission said the companies fixed prices, shared customers, carved up markets and swapped commercial information from 1987 to 2000 for tin stabilizers and ESBO/esters heat stabilizers, two additives used in packaging, credit cards, bottles and other plastic products.

The market for the stabilizers was worth some 121 million euros a year during the time the cartel was active, the EU said.

Tin stabilizers are used to protect PVC plastic from heat when it is being formed into final products. Heat stabilizers are added to PVC products to help them cope better with higher temperatures, make them more rigid and protect them from discoloration.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "these companies must learn the hard way that breaking the law does not pay and that repeat offenders will face stiffer penalties."

Regulators said they had increased a fine on Arkema France - owned by Elf Aquitaine - by 90 percent because it has been found guilty of joining three other cartels before. However, it also granted a small reduction to Arkema, Baerlocher and Ciba for sharing information with officials.

Swiss consultancy AC Treuhand was fined 348,000 euros for aiding the cartel.


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