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Shell apologises for bitumen meetings in Brussels probe

From Our October 2004 Shell News Archive

Financial Times: Shell apologises for bitumen meetings in Brussels probe

Royal Dutch/Shell said it regretted attending meetings with roadbuilders and bitumen suppliers. The apology came as it responded to charges from the European Commission of possible price-fixing in the Dutch bitumen market.”: Rein Willems, chairman of Shell in the Netherlands, said: “We are concerned about this matter. We should not have been in these meetings and we regret our involvement in this case.”

By James Boxell

Published: October 22 2004

Royal Dutch/Shell said it regretted attending meetings with roadbuilders and bitumen suppliers. The apology came as it responded to charges from the European Commission of possible price-fixing in the Dutch bitumen market.

Rein Willems, chairman of Shell in the Netherlands, said: “We are concerned about this matter. We should not have been in these meetings and we regret our involvement in this case.”

The Anglo-Dutch energy group, which is seeking to restore its reputation after overbooking 23 per cent of its oil reserves, said it had received a “statement of objections” from the Commission, along with 13 other bitumen market participants.

The Commission has been investigating Shell and the other companies, including ExxonMobil, since 2002.

The investigation has been prompted by suspected anti-competitive behaviour going back to the 1990s.

Mr Willems conceded that Shell had been present in a number of meetings with roadbuilders and suppliers during the period under investigation.

Shell said it now had a two-month period to decide how to repond to the cartel charges from the Commission.

“We have to study the objections and review our position,” the company said.

“This is the first official document that we can react to.”

Bitumen is a byproduct of crude oil that is used by the construction industry for asphalt surfacing of roads and waterproofing.

Other companies being investigated include Ballast Nedam, the Dutch construction group that enjoys close links with Neelie Kroes, the incoming European Union competition commissioner.

* Separately yesterday, Nigeria’s Ogoni tribe threatened mass action against a local Royal Dutch/Shell unit unless the company failed to withdraw troops from the Ogoniland area, where it abandoned oilfields in 1993. Shell has denied deploying troops.

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