Three chemicals companies – Akzo Nobel, Sanofi-Aventis and Arkema – have been fined 217 million euros by the European Commission for operating a cartel in the market for monochloroacetic acid.

The Commission said that the companies had run the syndicate for 15 years, fixing prices of the chemical, which is used as an intermediate and ingredient in the production in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food products, as well as in the textile and plastics sectors. Akzo was fined 84.38 million euros, Sanofi-Aventis affiliate Hoechst 74.03 million euros and Arkema 58.5 million euros for running the cartel. Swiss chemical company Clariant – which took over Hoechst’s MCAA business in 1997, escaped a fine because it blew the whistle on the syndicate. The commission said the companies conspired to control more than 90 per cent of the European market worth as much as 125 million euros a year.

Arkema and Akzo had their fines reduced by 40% and 25%, respectively, by cooperating with the investigation. However, Hans Wijers, Akzo Nobel’s chairman, said that while he regretted the company’s past conduct he was unhappy about the size of the fine. “Since we cooperated extensively with the European authorities, we feel aggrieved about the huge amount of this 84m fine. We will study the argumentation behind it to see whether the calculation is fair,” he said, adding that the company had “partly provided for” the fine. Meanwhile, Sanofi-Aventis said it had made provision for the fine but was considering an appeal.