* Cartel ran for almost ten years from 1999
* Shares in Prysmian rise on lower than expected fine
(Adds Goldman Sachs, Prysmian, EU antitrust chief comments)
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, April 2 U.S. investment bank Goldman
Sachs, the world's top cablemaker Prysmian,
Nexans and eight other cable firms were fined a total
of 302 million euros ($416 million) by European regulators for
running a cartel.
The power cable cartel, made up of six European companies,
three Japanese and two Korean firms, ran for almost 10 years
from 1999, with the companies sharing markets and allocating
customers between themselves, the European Union's antitrust
authority said on Wednesday.
Prysmian received the biggest penalty from the EU at 104.6
million euros, which included a joint fine of 37.3 million euros
with Goldman Sachs. The bank acquired the Italian company via
one of its private equity funds in 2005 but has since sold its
Prysmian said it would appeal against the European
Commission's decision, as did Danish company NKT Holding
which received a much smaller fine. Goldman Sachs said
it may challenge the ruling.
The Italian company said it "believes that the decision is
based on a superficial and erroneous analysis of the relevant
facts and, therefore, considers the decision unlawful."
Its shares rose more than 3 percent because the fine was less
than the 199 million euros the firm had set aside to pay it.
European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said
Goldman Sachs played an active management role at Prysmian
during the cartel years.
"We had evidence during our investigation of the direct
involvement of Goldman Sachs in the management decisions of the
company Prysmian," he told a news conference.
Goldman Sachs said: "It is important to recognize that the
Commission has chosen to hold GS jointly and severally liable
with Prysmian solely under its parental liability doctrine.
"Notably, there is no suggestion that Goldman Sachs or its
people had any knowledge or involvement in the purported
Authorities in Japan, South Korea and Australia have already
levied million-dollar fines against cable companies for
anti-competitive practices, and the United States Department of
Justice is also investigating the industry.
The EU watchdog handed a 70.7 million euro fine to French
cable manufacturer Nexans, which said it would consider an
Denmark's NKT Holding was fined 3.9 million euros.
"We do not believe that there is evidence in the
Commission's allegations. We have not in any way been involved
in any form of cartels. Therefore, we disagree with the decision
and we will appeal," Chief Executive Michael Lyng said.
France's Safran, fined 8.6 million euros, said this
would not have a significant impact on its results as it had set
aside a provision.
Other cartel members include Japan's Exsym Corporation and
J-Power Systems Corporation and Korean peer LS Cable & System
. None of the Asian companies were immediately
available to comment outside normal business hours.
Swiss engineering firm ABB alerted the Commission
to the cartel and, as a result, escaped a fine.
For a full list of the companies fined by the European
Commission, click here
($1 = 0.7249 Euros)
(Additional reporting by Ole Mikkelsen in Copenhagen, Francesca
Landini and Massimo Gaia in Milan and Brian Love in Paris;
Editing by Erica BillinghM)