Aalberts 100.8 Million-Euro Cartel Fine Voided by EU Court

Aalberts Industries NV (AALB), Europe’s biggest maker of fittings used in taps and heaters, won a European Union court ruling overturning a 100.8 million-euro ($143 million) antitrust fine.

The EU General Court in Luxembourg today said Aalberts subsidiaries didn’t participate in a copper cartel during the period they were owned by Aalberts. Shares of the Langbroek, Netherlands-based company rose as much as 5.8 percent.

The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive agency, in 2006 fined 30 companies a total of 314.7 million euros for unlawfully colluding on prices of copper fittings used in plumbing and heating. Aalberts’s fine was 6 percent of its 2010 revenue of 1.68 billion euros.

“We are celebrating that this dishonest fine is finally” annulled, Jan Aalberts, the chief executive officer of Aalberts, said in a telephone interview. “We never made provisions for the fine on our balance sheet because it was such a completely unfair fine.”

Aalberts rose 5.5 percent to 16.74 euros at the 5:36 p.m. close of trading on Euronext Amsterdam, the highest closing value since October 2007.

Other Fines Upheld

IMI Plc (IMI)’s 48.3 million-euro fine and Legris Industries SA’s 46.8 million-euro fine were upheld by the court. Tomkins Plc, the auto-parts maker bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Onex Corp in September, won a 1 million- euro reduction of its fine to 4.25 million euros.

A message left with the CEO of Rennes, France-based Legris, which is now owned by Parker Hannifin Corp. (PH), wasn’t immediately returned. An IMI spokeswoman in London declined to comment. Phone messages left with Tomkins weren’t immediately returned.

The court today ruled that the duration of Tomkins’s involvement in the cartel was shorter than the commission had said and that its liability couldn’t be higher than that of its subsidiary in the case.

The rulings largely upheld “the existence of anti- competitive conduct in the copper fittings sector,” Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for the Brussels-based commission said in an e-mailed statement. “The commission will carefully examine” the cases where fines were cut.

The cartel’s total antitrust fine at the time was the EU’s second-biggest against the construction industry following a 478.3 million-euro penalty against plasterboard makers in 2002.

The cases are T-375/06, Viega v. Commission; T-376/06, Legris v. Commission; T-377/06, Comap v. Commission; T-378/06, IMI and Others v. Commission; T-379/06, Kaimer and Others v. Commission; T-381/06, FRA.BO v. Commission; T-382/06, Tomkins v. Commission; T-384/06, IBP and International Building Products France v. Commission; T-385/06, Aalberts Industries and Others v. Commission; T-386/06, Pegler v Commission.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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