Spanish cement groups raided by antitrust inspectors

Spanish cement groups raided by antitrust inspectors
Published: 23 September 2009

European Union and Spanish antitrust officials have carried out surprise inspections at the premises of companies producing cement and related building products in Spain, the European Commission and Spain’s National Competition Commission, or CNC, said Wednesday.

The E.U. and Spanish probes are separate, spokespeople for the CNC and the European Commission said, though they are targeting some of the same companies on suspicion of taking part in price-fixing cartels.

The commission spokesman said its Spanish inspections were done "in the context of a broader investigation begun last November."

At that time, the commission had said it carried out inspections at cement companies suspected of cartel practices in several unnamed E.U. countries.

The CNC said its inspections represent a preliminary step and don’t necessarily mean the beginning of a formal proceeding. In the event that illegal practices are proved, the CNC could impose penalties of up to 10% of the total sales volumes of any companies involved.

Cemex said in a filing with U.S. regulators that Spanish antitrust authorities searched the offices of its unit in Spain.

Cementos Portland Valderrivas SA, which is controlled by construction company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA "is one of many companies under investigation and it is cooperating" with authorities, said a company spokesman.

Holcim Ltd confirmed its offices in Spain have been searched in the context of the EU probe, adding it is fully cooperating with authorities.

A spokeswoman at local producer Cementos Molins said the company hasn’t been formally notified of any investigation.