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Mexico's Cemex: EU Proceeds With Case Against Cement Cos

MEXICO CITY -(Dow Jones)- Mexican cement giant Cemex S.A.B. de C.V. (CX) said Thursday that the European Commission has decided to initiate formal proceedings against Cemex and seven other cement companies due to possible anticompetitive practices in 10 European countries. The European Commission launched an investigation in November 2008 into suspected cartel-like practices in the cement markets of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. France's Lafarge SA, Switzerland's Holcim AG (HOLN.VX), and Germany's HeidelbergCement AG and Dyckerhoff AG all confirmed in 2008 that their offices had been raided by European regulators. Ciments Francais, a unit of Italian cement maker Italcementi SpA, and Spain's Cementos Portland Valderrivas SA, which is controlled by construction company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA (FCC.MC), also said at the time that they had been targeted in the investigation. In a statement Thursday, Cemex said that the Commission told the Mexican firm that the initiation of proceedings "does not imply that the Commission has conclusive proof of the infringements but merely signifies that the Commission will deal with the case as a matter of priority." Cemex said that it has cooperated with the investigation, and the company maintains that it has always acted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The cement maker added that it intends to defend itself "vigorously" in the proceedings. Europe's major cement makers in 1994 were fined 248 million euros ($322 million) for running a cement cartel. The amount of the fine was reduced to 140 million euros after the companies won an appeal in 2004. By Amy Guthrie, Dow Jones Newswires; (5255) 5980-5177, amy.guthrie@dowjones.com

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