Spain's six top builders fined, restricted over bidding collusion

FILE PHOTO:Cranes are seen at the site of an under-construction building in Malaga, Spain, April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

MADRID, July 7 (Reuters) - Spain's antitrust regulator has fined six leading construction firms a total of 204 million euros ($208 million) for colluding over 25 years in submitting bids for public projects, such as roads and airports.

The National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) said in a statement on Thursday it also had decided to bar the companies from working with public authorities, although the length and scope of the ban was yet to be determined.

The sanctioned companies are Dragados, part of ACS (ACS.MC), hit with a fine of 57.1 million euros, FCC Construccion (FCC.MC) fined 40.4 million euros, and Ferrovial Construccion (FER.MC) ordered to pay 38.5 million euros.

The remaining ones are Acciona Construccion (ANA.MC), with a fine of 29.4 million euros, Obrasco Huarte Lain, part of OHLA (OHLA.MC), for 21.5 million euros, and Sacyr Construccion (SCYR.MC) for 16.7 million euros.

ACS, hit with the biggest fine, disagrees with the decision and will appeal it, a spokesperson said, declining to elaborate.

Acciona, Sacyr, FCC and OHLA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Between 1992 and 2017, the companies met weekly to analyse which public projects they were planning to bid for and to plan a common strategy, sharing technical documents among them, the regulator said.

Their collusion was socially damaging because they affected thousands of construction bids published by public authorities in Spain, leading to fewer and lower quality bids and putting competing companies at an disadvantage, it added.

The regulator called their actions a "very serious infringement" of Spanish and European competition laws which foster secret and independent bidding processes.

The six holding companies are Spain's largest public work builders by market capitalisation, amounting to a total of 40.4 billion euros, according to Refinitiv data.

($1 = 0.9811 euros)

Reporting by Joan Faus, additional reporting by Tiago Brandao; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Tomasz Janowski

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