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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 17:56 GMT
Big brewers 'not guilty', Brussels says
Carlsberg advertising
Europe's big brewers are increasingly dominant
The European Commission has dropped an investigation into Carlsberg and Heineken, saying there was no evidence to support claims of unfair collusion between the two brewing giants.

In March, the commission launched an inquiry into allegations that the two firms had agreed to stay out of each other's home market during the mid-1990s.

Brussels officials raided both brewers in August for the second time, but have now admitted that no solid evidence was found.

During their first raid, more than two years earlier, investigators found documents that they thought hinted at clandestine ties between the brewers' bosses.

Both companies have always denied the charges.

Dominance

Nonetheless, the commission remains convinced that the beer market is riddled by anti-competitive activities.

Heineken
Heineken effectively owns the Dutch market

The probe into Carlsberg and Heineken is the latest in a long list of attempts to chip away at the dominance of the big brewers, some of which have overwhelming market share at home.

Heineken, for example, has two-thirds of the Dutch market.

Over the past two years, EU officials have raided the offices of beer firms in Italy, Portugal, Belgium, France and Luxembourg, and fined Belgian giant Interbrew 46.5m euros for price fixing.

Beer producers, meanwhile, admit that they have dominant market shares in certain countries, but argue that it is barely relevant in a market that is now effectively global.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | Business
27 Feb 02 | Business
05 Dec 01 | Business
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