Argentine legal authorities have provisionally confirmed the record 310mn-peso (US$106m) fine imposed on five cement companies for allegedly agreeing to split up the market and raise prices, according to the local press. However, the decision has still not been confirmed, Demetrio Brusco, head of institutional relations at affected company Juan Minetti told BNamericas. "We have not been officially informed of the authorities’ decision, so we are unable to react as yet," the official said. He added that if such notification were indeed received, the company would then decide how to proceed.
On Tuesday the courts reportedly rejected the appeals of the accused companies after they claimed that the action against them was invalid because it was in fact statute-barred. If the appeals have indeed been rejected, the legal authorities will have to study the decision carefully to see if the punishment was applied correctly and this could result in a variation in the actual amount of the fines.
The courts deny the companies’ claim that they had not had the opportunity to defend themselves and the actions for which they are accused are not statute-barred, according to the local press. The investigation was retroactive back to 1981.
The companies fined are Loma Negra, Cementos San Martín, Juan Minetti y Corcemar, Cementos Avellaneda and Petroquímica Comodoro Rivadavia. The fines were announced July 27 by the minister of economy Roberto Lavagna and the inquiry took place after a journalistic investigation carried out by an Argentine magazine. Lavagna said the companies had divided up the market between themselves without carrying out real competitive practices. The sanctions are the heaviest ever applied by the state against a group of companies under the competition law