CRH on the defensive after search
CRH has defended its bagged cement business after confirming it had been searched by the State's competition watchdog as part of an investigation into the Irish cement industry.
The Meath office of Irish Cement, a division of Ireland's biggest company, was searched last Thursday, the company confirmed.
A number of premises in the bagged cement sector were searched with garda support, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said, though it is not yet clear which other companies were involved. The organisation can take action against competition law breaches through the High Court.
"Irish Cement operates to the highest business standards across all elements of its operations and is confident that it has no issue in relation to competitive practice" the company said via a statement.
The company fully facilitated the inspection, it added, stating that "inspections regarding competition policies, procedures and practices are an accepted part of the business environment around the world."
Irish Cement was founded in 1936 and became part of CRH, Ireland's biggest company, following a merger with Roadstone in 1970. It makes four different types of cement at plants in Platin, Co Meath, and Castlemungret, Co Limerick.
This is not the first time that CRH has come under scrutiny over competition concerns.
In 2014, the Swiss competition commission revealed plans to impose a €98m fine on three of CRH's Swiss subsidiaries following a two-year investigation into alleged price-fixing of bathroom fittings. It also wants to fine other Swiss wholesalers. A final determination has not yet been made.
In 2013, a Polish competition court upheld a 2009 ruling that slapped one of CRH's Polish subsidiaries with a €21m fine for being involved in price-fixing. Cement maker Grupa Ozarow was one of six firms fined a total of €100m, the largest ever of its kind in Poland. CRH rival Lafarge escaped fines because it agreed to cooperate early with the Polish regulator.
A Chinese company which the Clondalkin-based CRH bought into in 2008 was slapped with a multi-million fine for price- fixing last year. Chinese cement maker Jilin Yatai, of which the Irish building materials supplier owns 26pc, was fined $10m (€8m) following a finding that it breached anti-competition laws. CRH was not involved in its management.
€21bn - CRH's market capitalisation
2,000 - Irish jobs employed directly and indirectly by the cement industry
€98m- The amount Swiss authorities wanted to fine its subsidiaries