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Aalberts Wins EU Court Ruling Over $131 Million Antitrust Fine

Aalberts Industries NV overcame a court bid by antitrust regulators to reinstate a 100.8 million-euro ($131 million) copper cartel fine that was erased two years ago.

The EU Court of Justice, the bloc’s top tribunal, dismissed the European Commission’s attempt to bring back the penalty in a ruling today. A lower court quashed the fine against Langbroek, Netherlands-based Aalberts in March 2011.

Europe’s biggest maker of fittings used in taps and heaters was one of 30 companies fined a total of 314.7 million euros in 2006 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.

The commission, the EU’s antitrust authority, appealed the decision to overturn the fine, which said the Aalberts unit targeted by the penalty didn’t participate in a copper cartel during the period it was owned by the company.

Aalberts advanced as much as 1.7 percent in Amsterdam trading, the highest intraday level in a week, and was up 1 percent at 17.45 euros as of 10:28 a.m. local time. That values the company at 1.93 billion euros.

Aalberts will try to recover costs related to legal proceedings, Chief Executive Officer Wim Pelsma said in an interview.

Today’s decision runs counter to the opinion of an adviser to the EU top court who said in February that the earlier decision to annul the fine was based on an “error of law” and should be overturned.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is: C-287/11 P, Aalberts Industries NV (AALB), Comap SA, formerly Aquatis France SAS, Simplex Armaturen + Fittings GmbH & Co. KG v. European Commission.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net; Martijn van der Starre in Amsterdam at vanderstarre@bloomberg.net

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

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