SA’s largest cement producer, PPC has reached a settlement agreement with the Compitition Tribunal in the infamous cement cartel case that spanned over 12 years.

This agreement which comes after the Competition launched an investigation into the anti-competitive behaviour in the industry, in 2008, grants PPC final immunity from prosecution in the case. 

The cement producer has also been granted immunity from an administrative penalty.

In terms of the agreement, the tribunal on November 11 said PPC was involved in collusive conduct (price fixing and dividing markets), which is in contravention of the Competition Act.

PPC, according to the tribunal’s statement, undertook to “not engage in price fixing or any form of prohibited conduct in the future. PPC has also committed to competitive pricing going forward and will develop, implement and monitor a competition law compliance programme, incorporating corporate governance”.

This, the tribunal said, was with a view to ensuring that its employees, management, directors and agents do not contravene the Act in future.

PPC CEO Roland van Wijnen confirmed that PPC has signed a final settlement agreement and that, as a company PPC “is pleased that this case, which was initiated more than a decade ago, has been closed”.

The cement industry cartel investigations stem for a commission-led investigation launched in 2008, which probed alleged anti-competitive conduct in the South African cement industry.

The allegations were that Natal Portland Cement Cimpor (NPC), PPC, Lafarge Industries South Africa and AfriSam Consortium had engaged in cartel conduct between 1995 and 2009.

Since then, both AfriSam and Lafarge have admitted to contravening the Competition Act. AfriSam settled with the commission in November 2011 and paid an administrative penalty of over R124.8-million, while Lafarge also settled in March 2012, agreeing to a R148.7-million fine.

Both AfriSam and Lafarge then agreed to cooperate with the commission in pursuit of the case against NPC.

NPC denied that it contravened the Act or that it was liable to pay an administrative penalty, following which the commission referred the case against NPC to the tribunal for prosecution.

In August 2020, the Competition Appeal Court found that, as the tribunal had determined in December 2019, that NPC was not part of the cartel involving the other cement manufacturers.