Sasol Gas admits to dirty deals

Tamlyn Stewart

Tamlyn Stewart

Petrochemicals giant Sasol came clean yesterday, prompting the Competition Commission to launch an investigation into alleged price-fixing of piped gas and petroleum products, following a leniency application from Sasol Gas.

Sasol said yesterday that its competition law compliance review of all its businesses had revealed two competition law contraventions in Sasol Gas, and that it had informed the commission of the contraventions.

"The intense scrutiny of the review initiated last year is unfortunately indicating areas of concern," Sasol chief executive Pat Davies said.

The company said it was co-operating with the commission and that it had been granted conditional corporate leniency.

Last year Sasol was fined more than $400million by the European Commission which found that Sasol had been the ringleader of a cartel which fixed paraffin wax prices.

Gas distribution companies Egoli Gas, Spring Lights Gas and Coal Energy and Power Resources would be included in the investigation into possible market allocation and, or price fixing agreements, the commission said yesterday.

Nandi Mokoena, manager of strategy and stakeholder relations at the commission, said that collusion in the piped gas market would have affected businesses, such as restaurants, and consumers who relied on piped gas to their homes.

"It is basically everybody who uses gas as an energy source," she said, but added that the full extent of the collusive behaviour would only be known once the investigation was completed.

Simon Roberts, acting head of enforcement and exemptions at the commission said the corporate leniency granted to Sasol in respect of the gas charges was conditional upon them providing full cooperation with the commission in its investigation.

Sasol's Nitro division has also been investigated for anti-competitive behaviour in the fertiliser chemicals market.

The commission said yesterday that Sasol had now approached the competition authority "with a view to reaching settlement" on possible anti-competitive behaviour.

Sasol also said that its legal advisors had identified certain conduct which could amount to unlawful behaviour by its Sasol Oil division, and it had submitted leniency applications to the commission.