CAIRO: Egypt’s Ministry of Trade referred this week the public-run Sugar and Integrated Industries Company (SIIC) to the general prosecutor on price-discrimination charges in violation of the anti-monopoly law, said officials.
“The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) found [in its investigations] that the company in question was preferential in selling molasses produced from sugar cane among companies, a practice called price-discrimination in violation of the Egyptian Competition Law, said Ibrahim Abdel Rehim, spokesperson to the ECA, the nation’s anti-monopoly watchdog.
“The ECA referred the case to the Minister of Trade and Industry who in turn referred it to the prosecutor to pursue criminal charges.
If indicted, he added, the company will pay a fine that starts at LE 100,000 and could go up to a crippling LE 300 million, as stipulated by the recently amended anti-monopoly law.
Company officials contacted by Daily News Egypt on Monday refused to comment on the issue, saying it was company policy. The state-owned company is a dominant producer of molasses in the country, according to the ECA.
This is the second case of its kind under Egypt’s anti-monopoly law to be raised to the general prosecutor. Last August, 20 cement company executives were found guilty of price-fixing and monopolistic practices.
Court sessions in the appeal by company executives will begin next month.
Abdel Rehim said that the probe into the SIIC case took less than a year.
“The story dates back to 2006 when the Egyptian-Belgium Industrial Investment Company [that buys molasses from the SIIC] filed a complaint to the Trade Ministry, saying it suffered losses due to price-discrimination practices from the SIIC, he said.
After the ECA looked into the matter, the ministry contacted the SIIC requiring it to abide by the law. “However, the company did not respond, and the ministry sent another memo to the company, Abdel Rehim added.
“Later in April 2007, the ECA began its investigations, which ended by finding that SIIC breached the law.
Meanwhile, the three-year-old anti-monopoly commission is still investigating the Egyptian steel sector, which is dominated by the Ezz Group of senior ruling party official Ahmed Ezz. Findings of investigations in the steel sector were due last December, but have been delayed since then.
Initial reports suggested that retailers rather than producers are manipulating prices on the market. To that end, the Trade Ministry passed last summer new resolutions that prohibit halt of steel production and supply on domestic markets, citing price hikes and suspension of market supply.
The new resolutions stipulate that steel rebar producers, wholesalers, and retailers publicly declare prices as well as notify the ministry of production quantities, export capacities, and domestic sales.
Market monitoring campaigns launched by the ministry confiscated last Thursday 381.8 tons of steel on price-fixing and monopolistic practices.