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Brussels, le 10 October 2002

Commission statement on inspections in the bitumen sector

The European Commission can confirm that on Oct 1 and 2 it carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

The inspections follow suspicions of one or more cartels in the bitumen sector in the Dutch, Belgian/Luxembourg and Spanish markets. Commission officials accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities visited producers/traders of bitumen as well as, in the Dutch market, construction companies that purchase bitumen. Bitumen is produced by oil refineries. It is a tar-like product principally used in the production of asphalt.

The Commission will give no further details at this stage as it has a duty to keep antitrust investigations confidential. The present statement was prompted by the companies' own statements and by press queries.

These inspections do not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

The EU bitumen investigation is separate from any other investigation currently carried out by the Dutch competition authority in the construction market.

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