EU Hits Spain’s Abengoa With €20M Antitrust Fine

The European Commission has fined the Spanish company Abengoa €20 million for participating in a cartel concerning the wholesale price formation mechanism in the European ethanol market. Abengoa admitted its involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We fine Abengoa, formerly one of the biggest ethanol producers in the EU, for aiming at influencing ethanol benchmarks in the market. Biofuels can contribute to promote cleaner transport and cut greenhouse gas emissions and for this reason, efficient biofuels markets play a key role. The Commission has zero tolerance for cartels and will enforce its antitrust rules strictly to ensure competition in all markets, including those relevant for the Green transition, such as the ethanol market.”

Abengoa, formerly one of the biggest ethanol producers in the EU, referenced the large majority of its ethanol sales contracts to the monthly average of Platts’ ethanol benchmarks. Therefore, the level of the ethanol benchmarks could directly influence the revenues that Abengoa received from its ethanol sales.

The Commission’s investigation revealed that Abengoa coordinated its trading behavior with other companies on a regular basis before, during and after the so-called Platts ‘MOC Window’, which is the period between 16:00 and 16:30 London time. Abengoa’s aim was to artificially increase, maintain and/or prevent from decreasing the levels of Platts’ ethanol benchmarks. Abengoa also limited the supply of ethanol delivered to the Rotterdam area, in order to reduce the volumes available for delivery in the MOC Window. Abengoa’s ethanol traders had illegal contacts with individuals at other companies, typically in the form of chats, in order to coordinate with them certain of its ethanol trading activities before, during and after the MOC Windonw. These practices are prohibited under EU competition rules.

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