Heineken and InBev have issued diametrically opposed reactions to today's (18 April) European Commission ruling against the brewers.

The two brewers, as well as Grolsch and Bavaria, were today found guilty by the EC for cartel practices in Holland between 1996 and 1999. While Heineken, Grolsch and Bavaria were slapped with fines totalling EUR273.8m for their parts in the cartel, InBev escaped a fine for acting as the whistleblower.

"Having received the information from the EC, we respect the Commission's decision," InBev told just-drinks. "This is a case dating from eight years ago. We comply with all competition laws, and train all our employees to adhere to these."

Heineken, however, rallied against the ruling. The brewer, which was fined EUR219.3m, said it was "highly surprised" by the decision, and finds the fine "excessive and unjustified".

Heineken continued: "The company disagrees with the suggestion made by the European Commission that prices in the Dutch market were increased via co-ordinated practices. The company demonstrated to the European Commission that consumer prices in the off-trade (food) market actually declined during the time period in question. In the on-trade (horeca) market, the company's price increases were in line with the CPI (Consumer Price Index). In addition, Heineken also argued that in the Netherlands, it has absolutely no involvement in the private label segment of the market, one of the areas that the European Commission investigated."

The brewer also said that it intends to appeal the decision.

"The imposed fine will be treated as an exceptional item in this current year and will have no impact on the Heineken N.V. 2007 full-year forecast of 10-13% organic growth in net profit," Heineken concluded.

Grolsch said earlier today that it was "stunned" by the ruling, and noted that it plans to take further legal action. Bavaria was available for comment when contacted by just-drinks.