Fabian Demicoli

“Italy’s Antitrust Watchdog fines Liquigas SpA €17.1million”

Written
by Melissa Lipman of Law 360 from New York on March 25th, 2010, 3.04 PM ET – Quote: "Italy's
Antitrust watchdog has hit ButanGas SpA and Liquigas SpA with nearly €22
million in fines for allegedly participating in a cartel of liquefied petroleum
gas supplies, following on Eni SpA's admission that top executives from all
three companies had been meeting to set prices for more than a decade.

Eni
escaped penalty by providing evidence of the anti-competitive activity with its
leniency application. The Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato
fined ButanGas nearly €4.9 million and Liquigas more than €17.1 million last
Wednesday. Fines were based on the severity and length of the cartel, the
Autorita said.

The  three companies operated a cartel from 1994
to 2005 to fix the retail price for liquefied petroleum gas in cylinders and
small reservoirs in Italian island-province Sardinia, though the effects of the
agreements continued to harm consumers for at least a year after the
anti-competitive behaviour stopped, according to the regulator.

The
Autorita had responded to high prices for LNG cylinders in Sardinia by opening
an investigation into that market in April 2008. Eni came forward seeking
leniency in October of that year. The regulator said it also suspended other
providers – including Fiamma 2000 SpA, Sarda Gas Petroli di Antonio Pisani
& CSAS and Ultra gas Tirrena SpA – of anti-competitive behaviour, but that
it did not expect to uncover evidence proving their involvement in the Sardinian
cartel.

In its
request for leniency, the Italian energy giant said its chief executive officer
had engaged in meeting with similarly high level executives at Liquigas and
ButanGas to create parallel pricelists for their gas products. From a statement
given by its former top executive, Eni told the regulator that the heads of the
three companies met frequently to adjust their prices based in changes in the
global rates for raw materials, according to the Autorita.

The
executives fixed process at those meetings without leaving a written record to
the agreements Eni told the regulator.

The
Autorita said its own investigation confirmed that top executives from the
three companies met regularly over that time period to lay out standard product
prices.

The
regulator further found that each company changed its price lists by the same
amount around the same time.

The
Autorita said it will broaden its investigation into the three companies to see
if they colluded to fix gas prices across the country, based on another leniency
application Eni filed in January 2009.

Representatives
for BurtonGas and Liquigas, a joint venture between Dutch Energy Giant SHV Gas
and Italy's Gruppo Brixia ITAF were not immediately available for comment
Thursday".  Unquote

The
above article was written by Melissa Lipman of Law 360 in New York.

Mr
Roberto Cappelluto of Liquigas in Malta yesterday expressed his deep concern
that consumers in Malta are not reaping the benefits of the €25million
investment – because 23 gas distributors are refusing to accept that their
territorial agreement dating back to 1992 is now null & void.

We duly
comment that these 23 distributors have held back locally what has happened in
Sardinia between 1994 and 2005.

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