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Shell, Dow lose court challenge to EU antitrust fine

LUXEMBOURG, July 13 | Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:07am EDT

(Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Dow Chemical (DOW.N) lost a court appeal on Wednesday against a fine levied by EU regulators five years ago for taking part in a cartel, but the court cut a fine imposed on Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI).

The General Court, Europe’s second-highest, also annulled penalties levied against Czech petrochemicals group Unipetrol (UNPEsp.PR) and Polish company Trade-Stomil.

“With regard to Unipetrol, its subsidiary Kaucuk and Trade-Stomil, the Court considers that the evidence admitted by the Commission is not sufficient for a finding that those companies participated in unlawful agreements,” the court found.

For Eni and its Polimeri Europa subsidiary, the court cut the joint fine to 181.50 million euros from 272.25 million, saying a change in corporate structure and control had undermined the European Commission’s argument that the companies had repeated an infringement.

But the Court upheld the 160.88 million euro fine on the Royal Dutch Shell group.

And while it annulled part of the Commission’s ruling against Dow, it did not reduce the fine of 64.58 million euros.

The European Commission had levied a total fine of 519 million euros against the five companies in 2006 for fixing prices and sharing customers for certain types of synthetic rubber used to make tyres, shoe soles and golf balls between 1996 to 2002.

Germany’s Bayer (BAYGn.DE)L was not fined as it alerted the Commission to the cartel.

(Writing by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Rex Merrifield)

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