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EU prepares to fine steel cartels for price-fixing

European Union antitrust regulators are this week understood to be preparing to fine steel companies, including world leader ArcelorMittal, for operating a cartel.

In October 2008, the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, charged several companies with illegally fixing prices. The unidentified companies make wire rods used in prestressing steel for constructing balconies and foundation piles.

ArcelorMittal said in February 2009 the European Commission had investigated three of its units and two former units for possible anti-competitive behaviour. The company declined to comment yesterday.

The company has said it will indemnify the current owners of Emesa and Galycas, which it sold in 2004, from any possible fine.

The EU executive’s so-called statement of objections or charge sheet listed around 40 companies, with many of them based in Italy, Spain and Austria, the second person said.

The Commission, which can fine companies up to 10 per cent of annual sales for breaching EU rules, is expected to reduce the penalties for crisis-hit companies.