U.S. News

Heineken Says Expecting EU Fine on Wednesday


Dutch brewer Heineken said on Tuesday it expected to be fined by the European Commission on Wednesday for violating competition laws.

"This is a long-running case. We haven't received any information but we are expecting a fine on Wednesday," a spokeswoman for Heineken said.

Heineken is the world's fourth-largest brewer in terms of sales.

Dutch NOS television said Heineken, Grolsch, Inbev and Bavaria had fixed prices to keep them artificially high, citing an as yet undisclosed report.

NOS said brewers had coordinated on prices, market share and delivery conditions to bars and restaurants.

A European Commission source confirmed four brewers would be fined for participating in a cartel.

"Tomorrow's meeting (of EU Commissioners) is to determine the amount of the fine", the source said. The Commission normally announces the fines after informing the companies involved of the meeting's conclusions.

Grolsch declined to comment on the report. InBev said it would not comment until an official decision was taken.

Heineken said in 2005 it had received a statement of objections from the European Commission, which contained an alleged violation of the competition rules by a number of brewers in the Dutch market.

The Commission sent charge sheets to Grolsch, Heineken and the world's largest brewer by volume, InBev, in 2005, saying it was investigating suspected cartel activities that took place between 1996 and 1999.

It said at the time, that the price fixing practices affected beer buyers such as supermarkets, hotels, cafes and restaurants.

The EU executive can fine companies involved in cartels up to 10% of their annual turnover.

The European Union's top antitrust chief, Neelie Kroes, has made cracking down on price fixing a priority and set some record penalties in the past year, most recently fining companies in an elevator cartel almost 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion).

The Commission declined to comment.