EU antitrust regulators charge Belgian, Spanish ethanol producers - sources

BRUSSELS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators have charged Spanish ethanol producer Abengoa and Belgium peer Alcogroup of rigging ethanol benchmarks, a move likely to result in fines for the companies next year, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The European Commission, which opened an investigation into the case in December 2015, sent statement of objections to the companies in late July, the people said. These charge sheets typically set out the EU competition enforcer’s concerns about anti-competitive behaviour.

The two companies are seeking to settle the case, the sources said. Such a procedure allows companies to admit wrongdoing in return for a 10 percent cut in a fine.

Swedish company Lantmannen, which was also under investigation, has not yet received a charge sheet, suggesting that it may not be settling the case, the people said.

The Commission confirmed that it had sent statement of objections to the companies but declined to provide details.

Three years ago, the Commission expressed concerns that the three producers may have colluded to manipulate ethanol benchmarks.

Abengoa and Lantmannen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Alcogroup said she was not immediately in a position to comment.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman