Unilever faces competition probe in South Africa

Unilever faces competition probe in South Africa

The South African offices of Unilever and fats and oils supplier Sime Darby have been raided in a search and seizure operation conducted by the country's competition officials.

The operation is part of the South African Competition Commission's ongoing investigation into alleged collusive conduct in the markets for edible oils and margarine. The Commission said it had "reasonable grounds" to believe employees of Unilever and of Sime Darby's local arm Sime Darby Hudson & Knight are in possession of relevant information to the probe.

The watchdog said it would seize "documents and electronic data" that will be analysed to see if the Competition Act has been breached.

Acting commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said: "The Commission believes that the information that will be obtained from today's operation will enable the Commission to determine whether or not Unilever SA and Sime Darby have indeed engaged in collusive conduct. However, as part of any investigation, we also wish to urge anyone, be it business or individuals with further information to come forward and assist the Commission in concluding this investigation."

In a recent public statement, Bonakele indicated the Commission has decided to "focus on food and agro processing" because this is "a sector that has a direct impact on consumers".

A spokesperson for Unilever told just-food that the multinational is "co-operating fully with the authorities".