EU Raids Lantmaennen Agroetanol in Benchmarks Probe

Lantmaennen Agroetanol AB, a Swedish ethanol producer that’s been critical of oil industry publisher Platts, was raided as the European Union rekindled a probe into possible rigging of fuel-price benchmarks.

European Commission investigators on Oct. 7 made surprise inspections at Lantmaennen’s offices in Norrkoeping, Sweden, the company said in a statement dated Oct. 10. The regulator, which also conducted raids in another EU country, is concerned traders may have colluded to rig benchmarks prices collated by Platts.

“Lantmaennen isn’t aware of anything illegal having occurred or if any employee has acted inappropriately,” the company said. It takes “suspicions by the EU commission seriously and is cooperating fully with the authority.”

The unannounced inspections in the ethanol sector revitalize a probe into benchmark energy prices produced daily by Platts that has seemingly been dormant for more than a year. EU investigators in May of last year raided Platts along with BP Plc, Statoil ASA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Argos Energies and Abengoa SA, owner of continental Europe’s biggest bioethanol plant.

Lantmaennen Agroetanol last year criticized changes by Platts to the way the publisher will assess prices in Europe’s biofuel market.

New Methodology

Platts, which is a unit of New York-based McGraw Hill Financial Inc., has assessed prices for crude oil, petroleum products and related swaps using its market on close process since 2002 in Europe. To participate, traders voluntarily report some of their bids, offers and trades to Platts’s defined window period each day, which are then used to create end-of-day price assessments for various commodities.

Its oil-price reporting system “may leave scope for anti-competitive behavior leading to price distortions,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust chief said last year.

Following last year’s announcement, Platts said its price assessment process was “robust and specifically designed to safeguard against distortion.”

Platts wasn’t targeted in the Oct. 7 raids, Kathleen Tanzy, a spokeswoman for the company based in New York, said last week.

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