On 5 July 2010, the Commission sent a statement of objections (SO) to 12 companies alleging their participation in a cartel for the supply of submarine and underground power cables and related products and services. The SO follows unannounced inspections in January 2009 at the companies’premises. It represents a formal step in an investigation into suspected violations of EU competition rules putting the companies on notice of the Commission’s suspicions and providing the companies with an opportunity to put forward a defence. At the centre of the allegations are accusations of collusion over the allocation of markets and customers for underground and submarine power cable projects and fixing prices in the European Economic Area. Although the Commission has not named the companies concerned, several have publically indicated that they are under investigation. The global company, Prysmian, confirmed that it had received an SO, stating that it has been giving disclosures regarding the matter since 2009, most recently in its first quarter results for 2011. Another company, Nexans, confirmed that it and its subsidiary, Nexans France SAS, had received SOs, indicating “the material adverse effect that the fines and associated consequences could have on the earnings and financial situation of the Group”. Switzerland’s ABB also confirmed receipt of a SO. The power cables are used to transmit and distribute electrical power either underground or under water, connecting power grids in different countries. The Commission considers that “the price of the cables is therefore directly relevant for electricity consumers”.
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