Why the EU is cracking down on Norway's biggest salmon producers

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Why the EU is cracking down on Norway's biggest salmon producers
The EU has written to some of Norway's largest salmon producers over alleged price collusion. Pictured are salmon filets. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

The European Commission said Thursday it suspects six Norwegian salmon producers of collusion to fix prices and has asked them to respond before it takes further action.


The preliminary first step in a formal investigation, called a statement of objections, was levelled at Norwegian companies Cermaq, Grieg Seafood,
Bremnes, Leroy, Mowi and SalMar.

The commission -- the EU's anti-trust regulator -- noted that Norway accounts for half the world's farmed Atlantic salmon, with the EU its main market.

Although Norway is not an EU member country, it is part of the wider European Economic Area which encompasses Europe's single market and thus its fishery exports come under Brussels' regulatory oversight.

The commission said its preliminary study raised concerns that, between 2011 and 2019, the six companies exchanged "commercially sensitive information" on prices, volumes and other factors.

The alleged aim was "to reduce normal uncertainty in the market for spot sales of Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon into the EU".

The alleged collusion was for prices of fresh Atlantic salmon, and not the frozen kind or processed products such as smoked salmon, the commission said.

The companies can respond to the Commission in writing and request a hearing to present their views.

"Mowi contests the Commission's preliminary view and the characteristics of the alleged behaviour in the market for farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon, and strongly believes there has been no infringement of the competition rules,"
the company said in a stock market announcement.

SalMar, another major producer, also said it "strongly disagrees with the Commission's preliminary assessment and will present SalMar's point of view in a thorough response."


After being alerted by several market actors, the European Commission conducted surprise inspections at the companies' offices in February 2019.

If the commission finds its suspicions are borne out, it can slap a ban on such conduct continuing, and fine the companies up to 10 percent of the annual global turnover.

Based on the most recent data available from 2022, the maximum fine could amount to 13 billion kroner (1.14 billion euros, $1.25 billion), according to
calculations done by Norwegian financial news site

Early Thursday afternoon, the Mowi share price was down by 4.37 percent on the Oslo stock exchange, while SalMar was shedding 2.19 percent, Grieg Seafood 6.36 percent and Leroy 5.43 percent.

No date has been set for the end of the commission's investigation.


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