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German antitrust body slaps more fines on rail cartel

Germany’s Cartel Office has imposed another hefty fine on companies involved in fixing prices of rail tracks and equipment. Hardest hit by the second fine is once more Germany’s biggest steelmaker, ThyssenKrupp.

Fines amounting to a total of about 100 million euros ($131 million) were imposed on the German companies ThyssenKrupp and Schreck-Mieves, as well as Austria's steel firm Voestalpine, the German Cartel Office announced Tuesday.

ThyssenKrupp would have to pay 88 million euros, while Voestalpine and Schreck-Mieves were fined 6.4 million euros and 2 million euros respectively, the office announced.

The firms had been found guilty of conspiring to manipulate prices for rail tracks and equipment between 2001 and 2011, the antitrust regulators added.

“The cartel was aimed at winning public tenders for rail projects and splitting them among its members,” Andreas Mundt, the office's president, said in a statement.

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Steelmaker ThyssenKrupp under fire

Earlier this month, Germany's antitrust watchdog already slapped a fine to the tune of 134 million euros on the cartel, in a case affecting solely the partly state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn.The new fine came in response to cartel allegations related to private German rail operators. As in the previous ruling, steel giant ThyssenKrupp was found to be the main culprit in the price-fixing investigation.

On Tuesday, the firm said it would accept the second fine, with which it considered the cartel case fully and finally settled.

In a statement, ThyssenKrupp claimed it had assisted greatly in clearing up the rail cartel, which was taken into account by the regulators as an extenuating factor in their ruling.

Noting that several sales managers, a managing director and the responsible business area CEO had been sacked in the wake of the scandal, ThyssenKrupp said its own compliance rules and department had since been strengthened.

The German steel giant expressed the hope that talks with Deutsche Bahn, which had filed claims for damages against ThyssenKrupp, would continue to be conducted constructively.

uhe/tj (dpa, Reuters)

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