Hydro disputes Swedish cartel charges

September 9, 2002, 01:00 CEST

Hydro insists its conduct has been law-abiding as legal proceedings begin today in Stockholm charging Statoil, Hydro, OKQ8, Preem and Shell with antitrust violations.

"Hydro did a thorough internal investigation and found one person in the company who was aware of price discussions between competitors, but who insists the information did not coerce the company into acting illegally," says Hydro Oil Marketing director Bengt Gøran Markeborn.

The case centers on accusations of price fixing during November 1999 in direct violation of Sweden's antitrust laws. The Swedish Competition Authority is demanding the five companies pay it penalty fees totalling SEK 715 million (EUR 78 million).

The Authority seeks fees of SEK 74 million (EUR 8 million) from Hydro. Both Preem and Hydro have been levied lower penalties because they have fully cooperated with authorities during investigations. Statoil and OKQ8 are charged as the cartel's driving forces and their penalties are set, respectively, at SEK 222 million (EUR 24 million) and SEK 218 million (EUR 24 million).

"Hydro has cooperated with the Competition Authority throughout the entire investigation of the case," says Markeborn.

The case, which is expected to last through the fall, will be partly held behind closed doors. A judgement is expected in 2003.