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Royal Dutch Shell in another price fixing cartel?

German Cartel Office Sees Oligopoly In German Gasoline Market

FRANKFURT -(Dow Jones)- December 6, 2010: Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said Monday it sticks to its assessment that the country’s gasoline market is dominated by a few companies, and said mergers and takeovers in the gas stations sector will only be allowed under strict conditions.

“The Federal Cartel Office still thinks that the vertically integrated oil companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RSDA), BP PLC (BP), ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Total SA (TOT) for a [market] dominant oligopoly on regional filling station markets,” the antitrust authority said in an emailed statement.

Cartel office President Andreas Mundt said takeovers and acquisitions of gas station sites will continue to be granted only under conditions, to “avert a further concentration of the market.”

The cartel office’s comments come after Austrian oil and gas company OMV AG (OMV.VI) last months said it will sell 59 filling stations in eastern Germany to Poland’s PKN Orlen SA (PKN.WA) after the antitrust authority had opposed a sale to France’s Total.

The cartel office blocked Total’s purchase of the OMV filling stations in April 2009, saying it would have given Total and the four other companies an unacceptable market dominant position.

The cartel office’s ruling had subsequently been overturned by a regional court, which disagreed with the regulator’s view. The antitrust authority appealed, prompting OMV to sell the filling stations to PKN Orlen to avert a lengthy legal dispute.

In a separate deal, Shell’s German unit earlier this month acquired 41 filling stations from German retailer Edeka, fewer than previously intended after the cartel office had opposed the original plan on competition grounds.

The cartel office also Monday said it expects to present the findings of a comprehensive sector probe of the gasoline market, which was launched in 2008, at the end of January. In a preliminary report in June 2009 the cartel office had criticized inadequate competition on the German gasoline market.

-By Jan Hromadko, Dow Jones Newswires; +49 69 29 725 503;[email protected]

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