Bloomberg News

Total Wins, Arkema Loses Chemical Cartel Fine EU Court Bid

September 29, 2011

(Updates with Total comment in fifth paragraph.)

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Total SA’s Elf Aquitaine unit won a bid at the European Union’s top court to overturn its share of antitrust fines levied against it together with former Total subsidiary Arkema SA for fixing prices of a chemical used in detergents.

The European Commission “had not given sufficiently reasoned answers to several of the arguments put forward by Elf Aquitaine in order to establish that Arkema determined its conduct on the market independently,” the EU Court of Justice ruled today. The Luxembourg-based court rejected a separate appeal by Arkema against its part of the fine.

The companies had challenged the way in which the commission calculated part of the 216.9 million-euro ($296 million) penalty against manufacturers, including Akzo Nobel NV and Sanofi-Aventis SA’s Hoechst unit, for rigging prices of monochloroacetic acid. The case is the first in which a commission fine was challenged over the failure to show the parent company knew about antitrust violations.

In its 2005 decision, the Brussels-based commission fined Total’s Atofina unit 58.5 million euros, including a joint 45 million-euro penalty for Arkema and Total’s Elf Aquitaine, based in Courbevoie, France. Arkema was spun off from Total in 2006.

“We’re very satisfied with this decision,” Total spokeswoman Sandra Dante said by telephone. “We now have to analyze the ruling before we can make any further comments.”

2009 Challenges

Sybille Chaix, a spokeswoman for Arkema, didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment.

Companies fined in the cartel, including Akzo, lost challenges in 2009 at the EU General Court, the region’s second- highest court. Only Hoechst won a reduction of about 10 percent to its fine, cutting it to 66.6 million euros from 74.03 million euros.

The commission said in 2005 the companies conspired for 15 years to control more than 90 percent of the European market worth as much as 125 million euros annually. Monochloroacetic acid is also used to make adhesives and drugs and to thicken cosmetics.

The cases are: C-520/09 P, Arkema v. Commission; C-521/09 P, Elf Aquitaine v. Commission.

--Editors: Peter Chapman, Andrew Clapham

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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