Poland’s antitrust regulator (OCCP) imposed record fines on the Polish units of CRH and Cemex as well as four other cement producers for fixing prices and market shares. The watchdog fined the six a total of PLN411.6m (EUR99m). The other companies are Gorazdze Cement SA, a unit of Germany’s HeidelbergCement AG; another German cement maker, Dyckerhoff AG; and Polish producers Cementowania Warta SA and Cementowania Odra SA, the regulator said in a statement before a press conference in Warsaw.
The antitrust office started its investigation in 2006, saying in a statement at the time that it suspected some market participants of fixing prices and sales levels. It raided offices of eight cement producers and three other companies in May that year. Five of the six producers were fined the maximum possible of 10 per cent of their annual revenue, while Gorazdze will pay five per cent of its revenue, because it cooperated on the case with the regulator, the watchdog said without detailing the individual penalties. Lafarge also escaped the fine, in spite of its alleged participation in the cartel, in return for co-operating with the investigation.
In the case of CRH subsidiary Grupa Ozarow the fine amounts to PLN104.97m or approximately €25.6 million. According to a formal response from CRH, the conclusions of the OCCP are a matter of serious concern for CRH. CRH always understood that Grupa Ozarow conducted an independent commercial policy in the Polish cement industry. This has been verified by analysis undertaken, at the request of CRH, by leading Polish economic experts. Following a preliminary review of the OCCP conclusions, CRH and Grupa Ozarow have been advised that there are significant grounds for appeal. At this stage CRH does not consider it appropriate to comment in more detail pending its decision to appeal the conclusions of the OCCP. An appeal to the Polish courts must be lodged by 23rd December 2009.