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        Acting on a proposal from Mr Van Miert, the Member of the Commission
        responsible for competition policy, the Commission has decided:

        - to  impose  fines totalling slightly over  ECU 100 million  on  14
          companies (a list is attached);

        - to  prohibit restrictive practices which have been engaged  in  by
          17 Community and Scandinavian producers and distributors of  steel
          beams.

        A   number  of  Community  and  Scandinavian  companies  and   trade
        associations  were  party to a series of agreements,  decisions  and
        concerted  practices which had as their object or effect the  fixing
        of  prices, the sharing of markets and the large-scale  exchange  of
        confidential information on the Community market in steel beams.

        Some of these restrictive practices date back at least to 1984,  and
        some  continued  at  least until inspections  were  carried  out  by
        Commission staff in January 1991.

        These  practices are contrary to Article  65(1) of the  ECSC Treaty,
        which  bans  all  agreements  between  undertakings,  decisions   by
        associations   of  undertakings  and  concerted  practices   tending
        directly  or  indirectly  to prevent,  restrict  or  distort  normal
        competition  within  the  common market,  and  in  particular  those
        tending:

        (a)  to fix or determine prices;
        (b)  to  restrict  or control production, technical  development  or
             investment;
        (c)  to share markets, products, customers or sources of supply.

        The  decision  is  a stern warning not just to  steelmakers  but  to
        industry  as  a whole.  The Commission will  not  tolerate  unlawful
        agreements between companies aimed at fixing prices, sharing markets
        or exchanging confidential information in defiance of the elementary
        rules  of  competition and of the interests of the citizens  of  the
        European Union.

        I.   THE RELEVANT MARKET

        The  products concerned in these proceedings are wide-flanged  beams
        and  other  I, H and U sections with a diameter of  80 mm  and  more
        (with  the  exception of mine frame sections).  These  products  are
        together  referred to in the Commission Decision  as  "beams".  They
        are  finished hot-rolled long products which are mainly used in  the
        construction  industry.  They are ECSC products under the  terms  of
        Article 81 of the ECSC Treaty.

        In  the period up to 1990 the production of beams in  the  Community
        grew markedly:

                             Production in the Community
                                     (in '000 t)

                            1984            4 769
                            1985            5 218
                            1986            6 508
                            1987            6 618
                            1988            7 580
                            1989            7 944
                            1990            8 003

                            Production in 1990 in '000 t

        Germany                    1 552 923
        Belgium                      357 879
        France                       571 734
        Italy                        926 494
        Luxembourg                 1 189 903
        United Kingdom             1 770 252
        Spain                      1 336 744
        Portugal                      20 810
        Ireland                      276 636

        TOTAL                      8 003 375

        In  1989 the ten most important of the companies concerned  supplied
        two thirds  of the apparent consumption of beams in the ECSC;  their
        deliveries amounted to almost 4 million tonnes.

        II.  INSPECTIONS

        Information  on  these infringements was  assembled  in  inspections
        which the Commission carried out at the companies' offices in  1991,
        when copies were taken of a large number of documents.  The  parties
        put  forward  their views at a hearing held in Brussels from  11  to
        14 January 1993.

        III. THE PRACTICES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS

        Exchanges  of information between companies took place  at  numerous
        meetings  of  Eurofer's  "Poutrelles  Committee",  which   regularly
        distributed  documents concerning the monitoring of the  market  for
        beams,  and  in  other meetings and contacts  between  two  or  more
        companies separately.  Twenty companies or associations of companies
        engaged  in these practices over variable periods between  1984  and
        1991.  Three different types of infringement have been identified.

        Exchange of confidential information

        The  companies  kept one another regularly informed  of  orders  and
        deliveries  by exchanging their own figures.  The object was to  rig
        the  market,  as is made repeatedly clear in papers found  on  their
        premises.
        "Market  interpenetration was reported.  Everyone wants a return  to
        traditional delivery flows."

        Market sharing

        Several  documents found in the companies' offices  demonstrate  the
        existence of agreements aimed at sharing deliveries.
        A  firm  "agrees  with the percentages [the  allocation  to  Eurofer
        suppliers].  However, the basis must be ... tonnes/month".

        If sales were to depart from the market estimates established,  "the
        Eurofer  administration will contact the company in question to  ask
        it  to  pursue  a policy that is more  conducive  to  the  necessary
        equilibrium".

        Price fixing

        There is abundant documentation from the companies' offices to  show
        that there was collusion on prices.
        "The short-term objective of the meeting on 3 June should however be
        to set binding prices for beams for the third quarter of 1987."  The
        minutes  of  a  Eurofer  meeting  in  1989  state  that  the  prices
        "envisaged"  for  the  first quarter had been  obtained  on  several
        Community markets.
        

        IV.  THE DECISION

        . The  17 companies  and  Eurofer have  taken  part  in  restrictive
          practices which must be brought to an end immediately.

        . Fines are imposed on 14 companies.

          Eurofer was involved in certain infringements, but the ECSC Treaty
          does  not allow fines to be imposed on associations:  the  members
          who engaged in unlawful practices must be penalized individually.

          The fines imposed on the 14 companies have been set in  accordance
          with  practice under the EEC Treaty, where fines can range  up  to
          10%  of a firm's turnover in the relevant product.  The  level  of
          the fines imposed takes account of the gravity and duration of the
          infringement  and of the benefit derived from it.  The  Commission
          bore  in mind the current difficulties in the steel industry,  and
          in  determining  the duration of the infringement it left  out  of
          consideration the period of "manifest crisis" from 1980 to 1988.

        Mr Van Miert said that the same attitude would be taken towards  any
        other  industry where such practices took  place.  The  difficulties
        being  encountered  should  be  resolved  by  means  of   structural
        adjustment.  Restrictive  practices of the kind which had  now  been
        condemned   did   nothing  to  improve  structures   or   production
        capacities, but instead helped to keep them out of step with demand.

                                                            IP 134 - ANNEX

                           LIST OF UNDERTAKINGS CONCERNED

        The following fines were imposed:

        Arbed SA                                    ECU 11 200 000
        British Steel PLC                           ECU 32 000 000
        Unimétal SA                                 ECU 12 300 000
        Saarstahl AG                                ECU  4 600 000
        Ferdofin SpA                                ECU  9 500 000
        Thyssen Stahl AG                            ECU  6 500 000
        Preussag AG                                 ECU  9 500 000
        Empresa Nacional Siderúrgica SA             ECU  4 000 000
        Siderúrgica Aristrain Madrid SL             ECU 10 600 000
        SA Cockerill Sambre                         ECU  4 000 000
        NHM Stahlwerke GmbH                         ECU    150 000
        Krupp Hoesch AG                             ECU     13 000
        Inexa Profil AB                             ECU        600
        Norsk Jernverk A/S                          ECU        750

        No fines were imposed on:

        Acciaierie e Ferriere Stefana F.lli fu Girolamo SpA
        Eurofer
        SSAB Svenskt Stål
        Fundia Steel AB

                                        * * *

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