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Colombia Probes Cemargos for Fixing Cement Price With Rivals

Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Cementos Argos SA, Colombia’s largest cement maker, faces a probe of allegations it conspired with rivals to fix prices over the past three years, the country’s industry regulator said today.

The Superintendency of Industry and Commerce has opened an investigation of five cement companies including Medellin-based Cemargos for “an alleged agreement to fix prices and divide up the market,” according to an e-mailed statement from the regulator. Colombia has been monitoring “sustained and unjustified” increases in cement prices since 2010, the superintendency said.

Cemex Colombia, a unit of Bogota-based Cemex Latam Holdings SA, is included in the probe, as are Holcim (Colombia) SA, Cementos Tequendama SAS and Cementos San Marcos SA, according to the statement. The companies may face a fine of 59 billion pesos ($31 million) if found guilty of violating free competition, the statement says.

“I suspect it’s going to be a long process that will end with some fines, but nothing too serious,” Esteban Polidura, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said in an e-mailed response to questions. Colombian cement prices are more expensive than in most Latin American countries mostly due to higher transportation and distribution prices, Polidura said.

Jorge Perez, a spokesman for Cemex in Monterrey, Mexico, declined to comment. A Cemargos press official declined to comment. A press official at Holcim and an official at San Marcos didn’t immediately answer a phone call and an e-mail requesting comment. A request for comment sent through Tequendama’s website wasn’t immediately answered.

The regulator will examine whether 14 people including Cemargos Chief Executive Officer Jorge Mario Velasquez and Cemex Latam’s Carlos Jacks collaborated on, facilitated, authorized or implemented anti-competitive practices, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christine Jenkins in Bogota at cjenkins28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Papadopoulos at papadopoulos@bloomberg.net

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