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Auto Glass Manufacturers Respond to EU Fines for Price-Fixing; Saint-Gobain Plans to Appeal

Several of the auto glass manufacturers on whom fines were imposed this week by the European Union for price-fixing have responded and reacted to the announcement, made early yesterday morning by the European Commission. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

(Editor's Note: All figures are in U.S. dollars unless noted otherwise.)

Among these has been Saint-Gobain, which incurred the largest fine ever imposed on a company, according to the European Commission, based on its past offenses. Company officials say they set aside a provision of approximately $700 million late last year, as they expected the fines. Last November, several glass manufacturers, including Saint-Gobain, were charged for price-fixing in the flat glass sector. At that time, the EU had indicated it was conducting an investigation on the auto glass side of the business. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

However, the announced total of Saint-Gobain's fine was $1.1 billion (approximately 4 million more than expected)-an amount which company officials say represents approximately 95 percent of its OEM auto glass business in Europe and several decades' net income. The company has announced it "intends to immediately appeal the decision before the Luxembourg Court of First Instance."

Likewise, Saint-Gobain-and the other manufacturers involved-are still awaiting the full report, which is said to include acts that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, to find out the exact terms and reasons for the Commission's decision.

Officials for Asahi, against which the next largest fine was levied ($142 million), have said that once the full report is received, they will examine the decision and determine their course of action. Onsite inspections were conducted at Asahi on February 22 and February 23, 2005, and a statement of objections was issued against the company on April 18, 2007.

Asahi's original fine would have been 1.5 billion, but the company received a reduction of $1.4 million (50 percent) for cooperating with the Commission, and for providing additional information to help expose others.

Asahi has not yet revealed the impact the fine will have on its financial status.

Nippon Sheet Glass, the parent company of Pilkington, which received a $464 million fine, says it also may appeal, depending on the full report, once it is available. The company had set aside approximately $370 million for the possible fine in May 2007. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

Officials from Belgium-based Soliver, which received the smallest of the fines, at $6 million, had not responded to requests for comment at press time.

Soliver is the only of the companies named in this week's report that was not involved in last year's flat-glass ruling-which was announced nearly a year ago, on November 27, 2007.

CLICK HERE for full text of statement from Saint-Gobain.

CLICK HERE for full text of statement from Asahi.

CLICK HERE for full text of statement from NSG.

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