Top four perfume groups raid in coordinated antitrust investigation

The world’s four largest perfume suppliers were raided on Wednesday as part of a coordinated move by regulators to investigate overpricing and other anticompetitive practices in the industry.

Swiss firms Firmenich and Givaudan, Germany’s Symrise and the US group International Flavors & Fragrances – which together control about 60% of the market – are all being regulated by antitrust authorities in Switzerland, the UK, the US and the EU. investigation on suspicion of collusion.

“There are doubts that [the companies] coordinated their pricing policy, banned their competitors from supplying certain customers and restricted the production of certain fragrances,” said Swiss competition regulator Comco. know on Wednesday. It added that the companies were found not guilty while the investigation was underway.

Chemicals produced by industry go into products ranging from fragrances to toothpaste and detergents. In 2020, it is worth 39 billion euros globally, according to the most recently available data from Euromonitor.

All four companies confirmed that they were under investigation.

Symrise said it expects authorities to announce the results of the investigation “in a timely manner”. The UK Competition and Markets Authority said it expected to analyze all information collected by early 2024.

Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, chief executive officer of Symrise, said in a media call about the company’s annual results that it has “nothing to hide”. Shares of the group fell 3% in morning trading before recovering in the afternoon. Shares of Givaudan were initially down more than 4%, while shares of IFF fell nearly 3% after the market opened.

The privately owned Firmenich last year announced plans to merge 41 billion euros with Dutch biosciences and materials group DSM, which was approved by DSM shareholders in January.

Under EU regulations, penalties for companies engaging in illegal cartel activity include fines of up to 10% of global revenue.

Mark Jephcott, partner at law firm Simmons & Simmons, called the raids “remarkable” because of the coordination across jurisdictions.

“It’s fair to say we’re likely to see more of the same thing as authorities fully return from a pandemic hiatus,” he said.

The European Commission did not comment on the individual companies involved. But Brussels regulators announced tests in this area earlier this week. The Commission said on Tuesday that it was concerned that the companies “may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit corporations and limited business activities”.

Brussels said it was in touch with partners in the US, UK and Switzerland and that the checks were carried out after consulting with them.

Additional reporting by Kate Beioley

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