Italy’s antitrust agency has fined Unilever’s (LON:ULVR) local unit more than €60 million for abusing its dominant position in the country’s ice cream market, Reuters has reported. The Anglo-Dutch group’s local unit has signalled that it would appeal the regulator’s conclusion.
Unilever’s share price has slipped marginally into the red in London this morning, having given up 0.05 percent to stand at 4,176.50p as of 12:33 GMT, underperforming the broader UK market with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.07 percent higher at 7,353.16 points. The group’s shares have added more than 34 percent to their value this year, as compared with about a 6.6-percent rise in the Footsie.
Reuters reported last night that Italy’s antitrust agency had ruled that Unilever had abused its position in single-wrapped impulse ice creams, intended for immediate consumption, which it sells through its ‘Algida’ brand. The FTSE 100 group’s Italian division was fined more than €60 million.
Italian authorities started the investigation in 2013 when a small producer of organic fruit lollies called La Bomba accused the Anglo-Dutch group of forcing local retailers not to sell its popsicles.
La Bomba claimed that Unilever had struck deals with operators of beach resort, bars and campsites to exclusively sell the bigger firm’s ice creams.
‘Highly competitive’ market
Reuters quoted Unilever as saying that the “market for ice cream (to be consumed) outside the home is a highly competitive one in which artisan and industrial, bulk and packaged products compete for the consumer’s attention in a fragmented landscape that is like no other in Europe”.
Unilever, which sells the Magnum, Carte d‘Or and Cornetto ice cream brands, makes about €1.4 billion a year in Italy.
The news comes after reports suggested last week that the FTSE 100 company had narrowed down the potential buyers for its spreads division to three parties.