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May 10, 2021

French watchdog fines Fleury Michon for ‘obstructing cartel probe’

Fleury Michon has been fined again in relation to what France's competition watchdog says was a price-fixing cartel among a clutch of charcuterie producers operating in the country.

By Dean Best

Fleury Michon has been fined again in relation to what France’s competition watchdog says was a price-fixing cartel among a clutch of charcuterie producers operating in the country.

Last July, L’Autorité de la Concurrence handed out fines totalling EUR93m (US$113.2m) to 12 firms in the charcuterie sector after ruling they took part in a price-fixing cartel.

Fleury Michon was hit with a penalty of almost EUR14.8m but the company said it would appeal the fine, arguing allegations covering the sale prices of products downstream did not apply to the business and denying having “participated in an anti-competitive agreement relating to the purchase price of certain raw materials”.

However, in a new announcement, the anti-trust body has claimed Fleury Michon had not informed the investigating officials “of an internal restructuring operation and the cancellation of the company Fleury Michon Charcuterie, one of the authors of the practices, to whom the grievances had been addressed”.

As a consequence, the competition watchdog has hit Fleury Michon with another fine, this time of EUR100,000, “for having obstructed the conduct of the investigation”.

In a statement sent to just-food, Fleury Michon said: “Fleury Michon wishes to reiterate its good faith and its respect for the investigation and investigation procedures carried out by the Competition Authority.

“Fleury Michon underlines that this sanction is strictly limited to an alleged lack of information – change of company name – and has no impact on the current appeal procedure.”

The company said the new penalty “can in no way prejudge [the appeal procedure]” and added: “Fleury Michon formally denies having participated with competitors in an anti-competitive agreement relating to the purchase price of certain raw materials (upstream agreement) and moreover appealed against this decision on September 18, 2020.”

Last week, Fleury Michon announced it is in talks over the potential sale of its subsidiary in Canada. In September, Fleury Michon struck a deal to sell its 50% stake in a venture in Italy. The company offloaded its half-share of Piatti Freschi Italia, a ready-meals manufacturer in which it had been an investor for almost 20 years.

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