Heineken NV, the world’s third-largest brewer, and Bavaria NV lost final appeals against antitrust fines totaling 218.7 million euros ($290 million) for colluding in an illegal cartel on the beer market.
The European Union Court of Justice, the 27-nation bloc’s highest court, rejected the companies’ bids to overturn, cut or review the fines in their entirety.
The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, fined the brewers and former Dutch rival Grolsch in April 2007 for coordinating prices in the Netherlands from at least 1996 to 1999. InBev NV, which has since merged with Anheuser-Busch Cos. to become the world’s largest brewer, escaped a fine after tipping off EU officials.
A lower EU court last year annulled the antitrust regulator’s decision and 31.7 million-euro fine concerning SABMiller Plc’s Grolsch. The September 2011 ruling by the EU General Court said the commission hadn’t proven that Grolsch directly participated in the cartel and “failed to explain” why the company should be held liable for a Dutch subsidiary’s conduct. The same court in June 2011 cut Heineken’s fine to 198 million euros from 219.3 million euros and Bavaria’s penalty to 20.7 million euros from 22.8 million euros.
Heineken’s original fine was paid in full in July 2007 and reported as an exceptional item, the Amsterdam-based company has previously said. Heineken is “disappointed” and “mandates 100 percent compliance with applicable competition laws,” according to an e-mailed statement.
Bavaria is “very disappointed” with the decision and “expected the court to judge differently,” spokeswoman Inge van der Heijden said by telephone.
The cases are: C-452/11 P, Heineken Nederland and Heineken v. Commission; C-445/11 P, Bavaria v. Commission.