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Jul 31, 2014

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Belgian beer probe widens

EU raids two more brewers, hints cartel at work

Oct 27, 1999 - The European Commission has widened its antitrust investigation of the Belgian brewing industry, suggesting it is controlled by a cartel.

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EU investigators raided the offices of the Alken Maes brewery and the Confederation of Belgian Brewers this week, said EU spokesman Michael Tscherny. In July, investigators searched the offices of Belgium's largest brewer, Interbrew.

"This is a spin off from the Interbrew affair ... we stumbled across things that suggest (the three) could be operating a cartel," Tscherny said. He said the Commission suspected brewers were guilty of price fixing and carving up the beer distribution market in Belgium.

The widening of the probe sparks concerns that the EU may next look at the control brewers exhibit in other European markets. For instance, Belgian brewers can strike exclusive deals with cafes that last up to 10 years, a system similar to the British tied pubs system.

"Whatever the Commission's findings, they will provide guidelines of what is unacceptable behavior," a source within the industry said.


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