A worker prepares to pour cement at a construction site for a high-rise office building
Brasília - AFP
Brazil's anti-trust regulators have fined six cement manufacturers a record $1.4 billion for a decades-long price fixing scheme.
In an unprecedented move, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) also ordered the companies to sell off shares to break up the cartel, it announced on its website.
The scheme cost consumers at least $12.6 billion over 20 years, estimated Alessandro Octaviani, who led the investigation.
CADE said the cartel was led by Brazilian cement works Votorantim Cimentos and included three other Brazilian firms plus Switzerland's Holcim and Portugal's Cimpor.
Votorantim Cimentos -- which was hit with the largest fine, 1.57 billion reais ($710 million, 518 million euros) -- called the ruling "unjustified and baseless" and said it would appeal.
Charges were dropped against French firm Lafarge -- currently in merger talks with Holcim to become the world's largest cement-maker -- and Brazil's Empresa de Cimentos Liz.
The six companies are barred from doing business together in the cement sector, from opening new concrete factories until 2019 and from applying for loans from public development banks such as Brazil's BNDES.