August 29, 2019 / 11:29 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 2-Australian regulator takes action against BlueScope for alleged cartel conduct

(Adds BlueScope comment)

Aug 30 (Reuters) - Australia’s competition regulator on Friday said it started civil proceedings against BlueScope Steel for alleged cartel conduct in the supply of flat steel products.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the proceedings related to allegations that between September 2013 and June 2014 a former BlueScope general manager of sales and marketing tried to get distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers to enter agreements with price fixing provisions.

“This matter involves allegations of serious cartel conduct,” ACCC’s Chair Rod Sim said in a statement, pointing to BlueScope’s role as the country’s major manufacturer of flat steel products and their importance in sectors such as building and transport.

BlueScope said in a statement the company had engaged with the ACCC over the matter and conducted its own internal investigation.

“While we have not seen all of the evidence that has been relied on by the ACCC, based on what we know today, we do not believe that BlueScope, or any current or former employees, have engaged in cartel conduct,” Chairman John Bevan said in a statement.

He noted that the ACCC had not alleged that any price fixing agreement had been reached or implemented.

The ACCC said it was seeking penalties and costs against BlueScope and the former employee, who they were also looking to disqualify from managing corporations.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is working with the ACCC on the matter, it added.

BlueScope shares were trading up 0.7% in early trade in line with the broader market.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin

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