EU MAY FINE VITAMIN CARTEL
FOR PRICE FIXING

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, May 26, 1999. Roche Holding and BASF, which last week agreed to pay record US Fines totalling $725 Million for conspiring to fix global vitamin prices, may also face stiff European Union Fines, EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert suggested.

A resolution to the EU's own investigation is still months away, however, and Van Miert would not say which companies the EU may fine.

Roche, Europes's fourth biggest drug maker, agreed last week to pay $500 million, the largest US Criminal Fine ever, and Germany's BASF, Europe's biggest Chemical Company, was fined $225 million. A third vitamin maker, France's Rhone-Poulenc, escaped a fine by cooperating with the investigation.

Van Meirt, the EU's top antitrust official, said the EU will probably impose fines before the end of the year.

"This kind of cartel needs to be fined very heavily", Van Miert told reporters, without saying how EU penalties would compare with the US Fines.
Shares of Basil, Switzerland based Roche have plunged to a five month low.

The US Justice Department, which conducted a two year investigation, said Roche, BASF and Rhone Poulaenc conspired for nine years years to raise the prices of vitamins and some related products, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of extra revenue. Those nutrients, part of a $20 Billion world vitamin market, are used in a variety of products from animal feed to groceries.

EU regulators, like their US counterparts, reduce fines for companies that agree to cooperate with investigators.

Van Meirt said that "some companies" are cooperating with the EU's vitamin cartel inquiry, but he declined to name them.
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Let's see, the cartel rips off the entire world for billions, then these two government agencies rip off the cartel, and everything is back to business as usual...No rebate to customers in the form of cheaper prices for 10 years, but food companies are planning their own lawsuits against the cartel to recoop losses. And of course, no jail terms or indictment by World Court for "Crimes Against Humanity"...ed.


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