Five large German beer brewers were fined 106.5 million euro for unauthorized price agreements. A sixth large brewer, Belgian AB InBev (most known in Germany for its Beck’s beer), escapes prosecution because it notified the authorities.
Cartel from 2006 to 2008
The German cartel authorities have penalized Bitburger, Warsteiner, Krombacher, Veltins and Barre for arranging prices between 2006 and 2008, which resulted in a keg of beer costing 5 to 7 euro more, while a case of beer became 1 euro more expensive – according to the Bundeskartellamt.
Main witness AB InBev escapes any possible fine as it was the whistle blower, but more sentences could follow as the German competition watchdog states that the investigation has not been finalized yet and officials are still trying to figure out what the role was of two other concerns and four regional breweries.
German beer sector gets huge blow
The fine could have been a lot worse, as cartel authorities could have fined the brewers some 200 million euro (being 10 % of their turnover in that period). Still, it must have been quite a blow for the brewers as insiders claim the 106.5 million euro is basically the profits of almost two years.
German beer sales have been slipping for years and have fallen to 96.5 million hectolitres in 2012, its lowest point since the reunion of Eastern and Western Germany. The competition has been brutal, making it virtually impossible to charge the ever-increasing price of raw materials to the customer.
(Translated by Gary Peeters)