The Competition Tribunal has fined companies in the Esor group R15.7 million for price fixing, market allocation and collusive bidding – while in a construction cartel that was active from the 1970s to at least 2015.
Esor, which was established in 1985, is a construction and civil engineering group that works on infrastructure, pipelines, building and housing, pipe services and sanitation.
The tribunal found that Esor Limited, Esor Africa and Esor Construction contravened sections of the Competition Act in that the companies were part of a construction cartel that concluded agreements among themselves, fixed tender prices and allocated tenders/customers and projects among themselves, the commission said in a statement on Friday.
The construction cartel “formalised what was known as the Piling Group or the Book Club which was an arrangement to fix prices and collusively tender for geotechnical projects which included piling, lateral support, drilling, and grouting”, the commission said.
Some of these projects included the Lusip Dam in Swaziland, the Sappi/Saiccor piling project, the Moses Mabhida Stadium piling project, and the Braamhoek Dam Grouting project, the Coega Harbour diaphragm wall project, Gautrain Rapid Rail Link project, Olifantsfontein Treatment plant and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
The decision was handed down on Thursday, 5 May and relates to a complaint first referred to the commission in 2009. It was referred to the tribunal in 2011.
According to the Competition Commission, Esor was found guilty of the above in construction-related markets for geotechnical services, including piling, lateral support, grouting and geotechnical drilling investigation services.
The case against another respondent, namely Diabor, was dismissed.
Four other companies – Geomechanics CC, Geomech Africa, Rodio Geotechnics, and Dura Soltanche Bachy – were initially cited as respondents, but reached settlement agreements with the commission.