***HOTLINE: Throwing stones

The result of the European Commission’s investigation into an 18-year long cartel in the prestressed steel sector couldn’t really have come at a worse time for the mills involved.

The result of the European Commission’s investigation into an 18-year long cartel in the prestressed steel sector couldn’t really have come at a worse time for the mills involved.

Some 17 European steel producers were last week hit with fines totalling €518 million after the Commission examined evidence that dated back to more than 25 years ago.

ArcelorMittal took the brunt of the fines — €315 million, in fact.

In condemning the mills’ action Joaquín Almunia, Commission vice-president in charge of competition said: “It is amazing how such a significant number of companies abused nearly the entire European construction market for such a long time and for such a vital product”.

Strong words indeed, and words that will weigh heavily on the steelmakers involved.

Some of the bigger ones are active members of Eurofer, which filed a complaint to the Commission over the level of concentration in the seabourne iron ore market.

Speaking on behalf of European steelmakers, Eurofer warned of possible anti-competitive practices by major iron ore suppliers and what it said were “strong indications of illicit co-ordination and pricing models”.

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