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‘Avoid getting caught’: report shows how Carlsberg, SABMiller, UB fixed beer prices

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Top executives of Carlsberg, SABMiller and India’s United Breweries (UB) exchanged commercially delicate info and colluded to repair beer prices in India over 11 years, based on a authorities antitrust investigation report seen by Reuters.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in 2018 raided the places of work of the three brewers and began an inquiry. The investigation’s findings — which aren’t a ultimate judgment of wrongdoing — forged a shadow on the brewers, which account for 88% of India’s $7-billion beer market. Senior CCI members will contemplate the report, drafted in March, as they determine on fines, which may exceed $250 million, two sources conversant in the case mentioned.

Executives’ conversations, WhatsApp messages and e-mails contained within the report present the businesses repeatedly and collectively strategised in in search of value will increase in “several States”, forging a cartel the CCI mentioned gave them extra bargaining energy with State authorities.

The companies additionally used the All India Brewers Association (AIBA) as a “common platform” to determine collectively on prices; and the native group then lobbied on the businesses’ behalf for value will increase, the report discovered.

At least thrice, executives exchanged messages urging each other to maintain their plans quiet, it confirmed.

“We should avoid getting caught,” AIBA’s director common wrote in an e-mail in 2016 to executives of the three firms.

The CCI didn’t reply to Reuters queries. Lobby group AIBA and Carlsberg declined to remark, citing ongoing CCI proceedings. United Breweries, part-owned by Heineken, mentioned it had cooperated with authorities and would make submissions to the CCI. Heineken didn’t reply to requests for remark. The world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which acquired SABMiller in 2016, mentioned it takes “antitrust compliance very seriously”.

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