PARIS (AP) -- France's competition authorities Tuesday slapped a record euro575 million ($776 million) in fines on 11 companies, including subsidiaries of global steel giant ArcelorMittal, for running a cartel in the steel trading sector from 1999 to 2004.
The damage to the French economy caused by the cartel amounts to "hundreds of millions of euros," France's Conseil de la Concurrence said in a statement.
ArcelorMittal steel trading subsidiary PUM Service Acier received the largest fine, euro288 million, for its role as one of three "leaders" of the cartel, said Virginie Guin, a spokeswoman for the regulator.
That makes it the largest fine ever imposed on a single company by the regulator, Guin said.
ArcelorMittal said it would appeal the fine. In a statement, the company said it "takes matters of this nature extremely seriously" and said it has a "rigorous global compliance program in place to combat anticompetitive practices."
The other two cartel leaders were KDI, a subsidiary of the Duisberg, Germany-base metals distributor Klockner & Co. SE, which received a euro169 million fine; and Lyon-based Descours & Cabaud, which was fined euro82.5 million, the regulator said.
Eight other firms, including two separate subsidiaries of ArcelorMittal, were fined smaller amounts ranging from euro100,000 to euro13 million. In addition, the French Federation of Metal Distributors was fined euro124,500 for its role in the cartel.
In afternoon trading in Paris, ArcelorMittal shares were down 1.2 percent at euro17.28.
The fines were welcomed by the European Commission, which has undertaken a Europe-wide crackdown on price fixing in recent years.
"The Commission is always very happy when competition authorities pursue cartel cases," said EU spokesman Jonathan Todd.
The companies have one month to decide whether to appeal the fines.
AP writer Constant Brand in Brussels contribued to this report.