Cement Australia guilty of anti-competitive conduct; Business conditions dive in February: Midday Roundup

The Federal Court has found Cement Australia guilty of anti-competitive conduct, with numerous breaches of the Trade Practices Act and the more recent Competition and Consumer Act.

The business and one of its managers will return to court later this year to determine the appropriate penalty.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the declarations are a significant step in the long-running proceedings of the ACCC.

“Anti-competitive conduct remains an enforcement priority for the ACCC. The ACCC took action in this matter originally due to its concern that a dominant player in a market appeared to be foreclosing, and preventing, competition,” he says.

The court proceedings related to contracts that were entered into between 2002 and 2006 with the operators of the Millmerran, Tarong, Tarong North and Swanbank power stations in South East Queensland to acquire flyash (a by-product of burning black coal at power stations which can be used to create ready-mix concrete).

The court found Cement Australia’s conduct had been with the purpose and effect of preventing a competitor from entering the market and has therefore reduced competition.

Business conditions dive in February

The recovery in business conditions has been short-lived, as the latest NAB monthly business survey reveals post-election gains were reversed in February.

The fall re-established the divergence between conditions and confidence, with confidence softening, but remaining marginally above trend.

While January had seen a sharp turnaround in manufacturing, this was largely reversed in February. The wholesale market also witnessed deterioration, as did the services sector.

The near-term outlook has now weakened and forward indicators softened.

Shares steady on open

Aussie shares have opened slightly lower this morning, as Chinese data shows an 18% slide in Chinese exports.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark was down two points to 5409.5 at 11:45am AEDT. Overnight the Dow Jones slid 34.04 points, down 0.21% to 16,418.68.

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