Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Commission flattens Lafarge-Tarmac joint-venture Tuesday 21 February 2012
UK: The UK Competition Commission has decided provisionally that the proposed joint venture between Anglo American plc and Lafarge SA in the UK could damage competition in certain markets for construction materials.
In February 2011 Anglo American, through its UK subsidiary Tarmac Ltd, and Lafarge announced a proposal to establish a 50:50 joint venture, to which each of them would contribute the bulk of their construction materials businesses in the UK. The two parties' main overlapping activities in relation to the joint venture are in the production and supply of cement, aggregates, asphalt and ready-mixed concrete. The Office of Fair Trading referred the case to the Competition Commission on 2 September 2011.
Now the Competition Commission has reported that the joint venture could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the markets for the supply of bulk cement, rail ballast, high-purity limestone (when used for flue-gas desulphurisation), primary aggregates for construction applications in 23 local markets, asphalt in two local markets and ready-mixed concrete in seven local markets.
"We have a number of concerns about this joint venture," said Roger Witcomb, chairman of the Anglo/Lafarge Inquiry Group. "In bulk cement there are currently only four UK producers and there is evidence that the market is not as competitive as it could be. Prices and profit margins haven't been affected in the way we would have expected following the big falls in the demand for cement in the past few years."
Although the Commission has not reached a view on whether or not there has been coordination in the bulk cement market, Witcomb said there were concerns that the proposed tie-up would increase the susceptibility of this market to co-ordination. "Some of the reasons for this arise from the proposed combination of the cement businesses and some from the increased vertical integration that would result from the combination of their ready-mixed concrete businesses," he said. "Lafarge currently have a relatively small ready-mixed concrete business, while Tarmac have a relatively large one."
Witcomb continued, "We are now consulting on the possible actions we could take in response to the reductions in competition we have found, bearing in mind the close links that exist between the different product markets."
As well as the summary of provisional findings, the Competition Commission has published a notice of possible remedies, outlining ways that the potential anti-competitive effects of the joint venture could be prevented. It will issue a final report no later than 1 May 2012.