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BELGIUM: Europe Coke Offices Raided in Probe

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European Union regulators raided Coca-Cola offices in England and Belgium Thursday as part of an investigation into complaints the world's largest soft-drink maker abused a dominant market position.The raids took place at offices of Coca-Cola Enterprises, a Coke bottling unit, in Brussels and London, EU and Coke officials said. They follow similar raids last July in Coke offices in Britain, Germany, Austria and Denmark."We have fully cooperated with the officials and we remain confident that all the activities we have in the Belgian market fully comply with EU regulations," said Steve Leroy, spokesman for Coke in Belgium.Antitrust officials from Britain and Belgium also took part in the raids, Coke said.The European Commission has been seeking evidence that Coca-Cola exploits its market dominance by offering retailers rebates to promote Coke products and shut out competitors.Coke, and its Sprite and Fanta products account for about half of the soft-drink market in Europe, with PepsiCo a distant second.The EU Commission said it launched its inquiry after complaints about Coke, but did not say if they came from one of Coke's competitors or from disgruntled retailers. In a statement, the EU said it had no deadline for concluding the investigation.Under EU rules, companies found guilty of infringing regulations governing fair business competition can face fines of up to 10 percent of their turnover, although in practice fines have been much smaller.


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