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Holcim Among Six Fined $1.4 Billion in Brazil Cartel Case

Holcim Ltd. and Cimpor Cimentos de Portugal SGPS SA are among six cement makers being fined a combined 3.1 billion reais ($1.4 billion) for alleged collusion to set prices and divvy up clients in a Brazilian antitrust ruling.

The producers are also being ordered to sell assets and will face restrictions on financing from government-run banks after forming a cartel, Vinicius Carvalho, president of Brazil’s antitrust regulator known as Cade, said yesterday in Brasilia as he read the ruling. Votorantim Cimentos SA and Intercement Brasil SA, formerly known as Camargo Correa Cimentos, were among four Brazilian cement makers in the group.

Brazil, the world’s second-largest emerging economy, has lost 1.4 billion reais annually because the producers controlling more than 85 percent of the nation’s cement market hindered competition, according to Cade. They had combined annual sales of 16 billion reais in Brazil in 2008, Cade said.

Cia. de Cimento Itambe and Itabira Agro Industrial SA are the other two Brazilian cement makers being fined.

Votorantim Cimentos said it will appeal the decision that was “unjustified, lacking a legal base and unsupported by facts,” according to an e-mailed statement. Holcim said in a statement on its website that it acted lawfully, in accordance with fair competition rules and practices, and that it will pursue all available legal steps to defend itself. The other producers didn’t reply to requests for comment on the ruling.

Cimpor fell 1.8 percent to 3.042 euros at 4:11 p.m. in Lisbon. Jona, Switzerland-based Holcim lost 0.2 percent to 79.55 Swiss francs in Zurich.

Lafarge SA, the world’s largest cement maker after Holcim, wasn’t included in the group because the Paris-based company reached an agreement with Cade in 2007 by paying 43 million reais in fines and agreeing to cease any anti-competition practice. The companies can appeal in court against the ruling.

Cade started voting on the case on Jan. 22, when Marcio de Oliveira, a member in the council, asked for more time to study his decision.

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