EU Fines Animal Phosphates Cartel

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union regulators on Tuesday fined 13 chemical producers euro175.6 million ($227.52 million) for fixing the price of animal feed phosphates, nutrients added to food for cattle, pigs, poultry, fish and pets.

Tessenderlo Chemie NV of Belgium received the biggest fine of euro83.7 million and said it would set aside euro97 million to pay the fine and other costs over three years. It said it fully cooperated with EU officials and has reinforced its compliance with antitrust rules.

France's Timab Industries SA and Compagnie Financiere de Participation Roullier, or CFPR, shared a euro59.8 million penalty. Spain's Ercros SA was fined euro14.85 million. FMC, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was fined euro14.4 million for its Spanish, Dutch and U.S. branches. Portugal's Quimitecnica.com and Jose de Mello were fined euro2.79 million.

The European Commission said secret agreements to coordinate prices, allocate customers and market shares and set quotas across Europe ran from March 1969 until February 2004, when Finland's Kemira Oyj blew the whistle. Kemira has since sold off its animal feed business.

The EU said it had reduced fines for Tessenderlo, Quimitecnica.com and Jose de Mello for cooperating with antitrust regulators. It also gave another reduction to them and Ercros and FMC for striking a binding deal to settle the case and admit liabilities.

Timab and CFPR refused to settle -- which would allow them to appeal the fine to the EU courts if they want.

Two companies had their fines reduced by 70 percent because they claimed a huge penalty could drive them into bankruptcy. The EU's executive did not name them.

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