The European Commission has fined nine companies more than €61m (£52m) for forming a cartel to fix the prices of, and share the market for, calcium carbide powder, calcium carbide granulates and magnesium granulates in a substantial part of the European Union.
Almamet, Donau Chemie, Ecka Granulate, Holding Slovenske elektrarne, Novácke chemické závody and its former parent garantovaná, SKW Stahl-Metallurgie and its former parent companies Evonik Degussa and Arques industries, were all found guilty of violating the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices.
The fine for Evonik Degussa was increased by 50 per cent because it had previously taken part in similar infringements. Akzo Nobel, who also participated in the cartel, was not fined because it revealed its existence to the Commission.
The Commission’s investigation started with surprise inspections in January 2007, prompted by an application for immunity lodged by Akzo Nobel under the 2002 Leniency Notice.
Calcium carbide powder and magnesium granulates are essential products in the steel production process. They remove oxygen and sulphur impurities from molten steel and improve the quality of the final product. Calcium carbide in granular form is used to produce the welding gas acetylene by adding water. Acetylene is used in the form of cylinder gas for cutting and welding metal.
The combined markets of calcium carbide powder, calcium carbide granulates and magnesium granulates in Europe are estimated to be worth around €175m.