India antitrust body fines United Breweries, Carlsberg in price fixing case

Economy11 minutes ago (Sep 24, 2021 08:48AM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Carlsberg beer cans are seen at a pub in Mumbai, India, October 20, 2018. Picture taken October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

By Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s antitrust watchdog on Friday imposed a penalty of $102 million on Heineken-controlled beer giant United Breweries and $16 million on the local unit of Denmark’s Carlsberg (OTC:CABGY) in a case related to cartelisation of beer prices in the country.

The order comes after a long-drawn investigation that in 2018 saw Competition Commission of India (CCI) raiding the offices of the brewers. The raids happened after rival Anheuser Busch InBev told the watchdog it had detected an industry cartel in India after it acquired operations of SABMiller (LON:SAB) Plc.

A detailed CCI investigation, reported by Reuters last year, found that the companies collectively strategised in seeking price increases in several states, forging a cartel the CCI investigation unit said gave them more bargaining power with state authorities.

In a final order published Friday, the CCI announced penalties of 7.5 billion rupees on United Breweries and 1.2 billion rupees on Carlsberg, after the amounts were lowered as the companies cooperated with the investigators.

AB InBev was given a 100% exemption from penalties in the case as it alerted the CCI about the cartel, the order added.

The CCI “directs the parties to cease and desist in future from indulging” in such activities, said the watchdog’s 231-page order, which also imposed penalties on several company executives it said were involved in price fixing at the time.

Carlsberg in a statement said it was reviewing the CCI order. United Breweries, Heineken (OTC:HEINY) and AB InBev did not immediately respond.

India antitrust body fines United Breweries, Carlsberg in price fixing case

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