One day before the trial started, German beer market leader Radeberger Group and its former CEO Albert Christmann, who moved up to the position as CEO of the whole Oetker Group at the end of last year, has withdrawn its appeal against a €160 million fine in a beer cartel case. The move was already suspected in February (inside.beer, 19.2.2018) but not confirmed until yesterday.
In a press release Radeberger declared: “The Radeberger Group was not involved in price fixing. We therefore continue to expressly oppose the allegation by the Federal Cartel Office against the Radeberger Group and its actors. However, since our appeal in 2014, numerous antitrust appeals have been heard and decided. The interpretation of the legal framework practiced here shows that, regardless of the facts, taking legal action in proceedings such as this entails incalculable financial risks for companies. After careful consideration, we have therefore decided not to pursue the objections filed on 2 April 2014, even if this entails the acceptance of the payment of a large sum of money.”
This leaves Carlsberg Germany and its former CEO Wolfgang Burghard as the only suspect in this case.
On the day following the opening of the trial, Carlsberg’s lawyer Jürgen Wessing stated that the “non-applicable allegations of unlawful collusion on prices” concerned the years before 2008 and are already time-barred after ten years. The presiding judge Manfred Winterscheidt did not immediately want to take a decision on this matter: "We still need advice on this."
Carlsberg Germany does not only face a problem in court these days. The relocation of the Holsten brewery within Hamburg from Altona to Hausbruch, which has just started this week with the installation of some fermentation tanks, and the associated job cuts are mobilizing the organized staff. In a ballot, 91.6 percent of union members opted for a strike.
German Federal Cartel Office imposed in 2014 fines totaling €338 million ($411 million at today’s exchange rate) after a voluntary declaration of AB InBev Germany concerning a participation in illegal price agreements in 2007. The allegations affected in total 11 companies, one association (Brewery Association NRW) and 14 private individuals, which predominantly accepted and paid their fines. Only three smaller breweries from the Cologne region as well as the two major brewing groups Carlsberg Germany and Radeberger Group did initially not accept their fines of €62 million and €160 respectively. (inside.beer, 24.4.2018)