Portugal's competition authority fines 6 retail chains 304 mln euros

LISBON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Portugal’s competition authority AdC imposed fines worth a total 304 million euros on six supermarket chains, including retail leaders Sonae and Jeronimo Martins, and two beverage suppliers for illegally fixing prices, the regulator said on Monday.

It said Modelo Continente, owned by Sonae, Pingo Doce run by Jeronimo Martins, the local units of France’s Auchan and Intermarche and the supplier Sociedade Central de Cervejas (SCC) had agreed a progressive increase in prices for various drinks, including beers and waters.

The illegal practices occurred between 2008 and 2017, AdC said in a statement.

These retailers, as well as rivals Lidl and E.Leclerc, have also jointly set prices on wine and hard liquor, it added.

Modelo Continente was fined the largest amount of 122 million euros, followed by Pingo Doce with 91 million, Auchan with 22 million and Intermarche with 19 million euros.

The retailers can appeal at the Court of Competition, Regulation and Supervision, and Sonae said “these charges will be vigorously challenged before the courts”.

In a statement, it said “it absolutely refutes the involvement of its subsidiary in any illegal practice”.

The other retailers were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, editing by Andrei Khalip