Aalberts Wins EU Court Ruling of $130 Million Antitrust Fine

Aalberts Industries NV overcame a court bid by antitrust regulators to reinstate a 100.8 million-euro ($130 million) copper cartel fine.

The EU Court of Justice, the bloc’s top tribunal, dismissed the European Commission’s attempt to resurrect the penalty in a ruling today. A lower court overturned 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 2.3 percent in Amsterdam trading and closed at 17.62 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.”

The commission “will carefully examine this judgment,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the EU regulator.

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

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