EU seeks additional $119 mn fine on Eni over 2006 synthetic rubber cartel case

Italian oil and gas giant Eni SpA can be fined an additional €90.75 million ($119 million) over a 2006 synthetic rubber cartel case, the European antitrust regulators yesterday said.

The European Commission (EC) has informed ENI and its affiliate Versalis S.p.A., that it intends to re-impose a 50-per cent fine or €90.75 million, related to the synthetic rubber cartel investigation.

The EC had originally imposed a total of €272.25 million fines in November 2006 for participating in a cartel together with five other companies, including Germany's Bayer, Dow Chemicals, Royal Dutch Shell, Kaucuk and Unipetrol from the Czech Republic and Poland's Trade Stomil.

The cartel had appealed the EC ruling and in 2011 got a favourable verdict from Europe's General Court against an additional sanction for repeat offenders.

The EC said that the General Court fully confirmed that ENI and Versalis had participated in the cartel but annulled the fine uplift for recidivism on the ground that the EC "had not adduced sufficient detailed and specific evidence" to justify its conclusion that the three infringements had been committed by the same undertaking.

The EC provided more details yesterday on the issue of Eni having participated in and being fined in the polypropylene and PVC II cases back in 1986 and 1994 respectively, allowing it to go ahead with the new fine.

The Brussels-based regulator issued a statement of objections as a formal step into suspected violations of EU rules and that it intends to re-impose an additional €90.75 million fine, because it was a repeat offence.

Eni can ''reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities,'' the EC said in a statement.