Saint-Gobain’s $1.2 Billion Fine Said to Be Cut Over EU Error

Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA’s record 896 million-euro ($1.2 billion) cartel fine may be reduced by European Union regulators within weeks as officials seek to correct a calculation error, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Regulators will make small reductions in the penalty because they made a mistake in the way they evaluated car-glass sales, said the people, who declined to be identified because the fining process isn’t public. A 370 million-euro fine against Pilkington, a Nippon Sheet Glass Co. unit, may also be reduced for the same reason, one of the people said.

Saint-Gobain, Europe’s largest building-materials supplier, was handed the highest EU fine against a single company in 2008 for plotting with rivals to fix the price of car windows sold to auto manufacturers from 1998 to 2003. Saint-Gobain’s penalty was increased because the company was a repeat offender already punished for a separate cartel to fix prices for glass used in the construction industry.

Tokyo-based Asahi Glass Co., Japan’s largest glassmaker, and Soliver of Belgium were also fined by the EU for the car glass cartel. The 1.3 billion euros in fines imposed on the four companies was the highest for a cartel until being surpassed last month by a 1.47 billion-euro penalty for companies including Royal Philips Electronics NV and LG Electronics for fixing prices of TV-parts.

Court Appeal

The European Commission, the EU’s Brussels-based antitrust Authority, and Sophie Chevallon, a spokeswoman for Saint-Gobain in Courbevoie near Paris, declined to comment. David Roycroft, a spokesman for St. Helens, England-based Pilkington Group Ltd., didn’t return a call and an e-mail seeking comment. Nippon Sheet Glass also didn’t respond to an attempt to contact the company via its website. Asahi Glass’s press office also declined to comment.

Saint-Gobain and Pilkington have challenged the fines at the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg.

Volvo Car Corp., a Swedish carmaker owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., separately sued Pilkington at London’s High Court for “substantial” damages for overcharging for windshields and other car glass, Volvo’s law firm said in 2010. Nippon Sheet Glass, also based in the Japanese capital, bought Pilkington in 2006.

EU antitrust fines are based on sales of products concerned and are capped at a maximum of 10 percent of companies’ total annual revenues.

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