Warsteiner shares €106m fine for German beer cartel, AB InBev escapes


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Photo: Ippie Suzuki/Flickr
Photo: Ippie Suzuki/Flickr

Related tags Ab inbev Germany

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is set to fine five of the nation's brewers including Warsteiner €106m for fixing beer prices from 2006-2008 but whistleblower AB InBev has escaped punishment.

Warsteiner is sharing the €106.5m ($145m) fine for illegally fixing the price of draft and bottled beer between 2006 and 2008, but the German division of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) will escape a fine since it co-operated with the office.

However, Germany's Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office) announced today four other companies will share the fine - Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins, Warsteiner and Barre - while seven executives deemed at fault will also face financial penalties.

AB InBev: 'We blew the whistle!'

The office said a settlement with the five brewers meant their fines were reduces, and investigations are ongoing into six other unidentified brewers, but four are based in North Rhine-Westphalia and their regional association is also under investigation.

AB InBev Deutschland communication manager, Oliver Bartelt, sent a statement to BeverageDaily.com confirming that AB InBev made use of the office's leniency program.

"AB InBev applied for leniency after an internal audit into our German business revealed behaviour that was not compliant with our code of conduct," ​the statement read.

"In line with our Compliance Program, we communicated our findings to the Federal Cartel Office and have been fully cooperating with the German Federal Cartel Office throughout this investigation," ​the brewer added.

Personal and telephone contacts...

Andreas Mundt, Bundeskartellamt president, said: "Through our investigation, we were able to prove collusion between breweries that were based primarily on a purely personal and telephone contacts.

"For draft beer, price increases...were agreed in the order of five to seven euros per hectolitre in 2006 and 2008. For bottles of beer a price increase was agreed in 2008, with the intention of making 20-bottle crates one euro more expensive."

Through joint meetings and bilateral contacts, the cartel office said that German national brewers agreed price increases for draft and bottled beers.

Thereafter, at meetings of the North Rhine Westphalian regional brewery association in June 2006 and September 2007 AB InBev, Veltins and Warsteiner agreed these price increases with North Rhine Westphalia brewers including Barre.

Carlsberg: 'We take this matter very seriously'

Last March, Carlsberg confirmed to BeverageDaily.com that it was under scrutiny from the Bundeskartelamt​, in an investigation that has run since August 2011, but refused to be drawn on any potential financial impacts it could face in the wake of German press reports.

Ben Morton, Carlsberg VP international media relations, told this website today that the company's position remained the same.

“With regards to your query, I can confirm that we have been contacted by the authorities and that we take this matter very seriously. However, we have no further comment to make at this point in time,"​ he said.

The Bundeskartelamt said today that the fines are not final and can be appealed to Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court.

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