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Competition Watchdog Suspects Cartel Agreements in Construction (adds)

Ljubljana, 11 March (STA) - Slovenian daily papers reported on Thursday that the Competition Protection Office (CPO) had launched an inquiry into suspected cartel agreements among five major Slovenian construction companies.

SCT, Vegrad, GPG, CPM and KPL are believed to coordinate their bids for individual deals, make agreements on the prices and distribute deals among themselves, daily Dnevnik reports.

According to the paper, before launching the proceedings the competition watchdog acquired from the companies the contracts they signed before even submitting bids for public tenders.

The companies are also believed to be making cartel agreements in deals they carried out for private businesses, the paper adds.

According to business daily Finance, the suspicious deals include the Brezje-Podtabor motorway section, four viaducts and the construction of the Sentvid and Markovec tunnels.

The watchdog has told Dnevnik only that it has launched proceedings and noted that this does not mean that competition legislation has been breached.

The paper adds that CPO head Jani Sorsak has also launched an investigation into tender practices of the national motorway company, DARS, in particular into joint bids by large companies for deals that could have been carried out by one company.

GPG and CPM confirmed that investigators of the Competition Protection Office visited their headquarters yesterday and looked into the deals related to the construction of the Sentvid and Markovec tunnels as part of the cartel agreement investigation.

GPG director Boris Dolamic told STA that the investigators were particularly interested in documentation on the Markovec tunnel, adding that the company enabled them to access all required data. "We are not worried, we made no agreements", he added.

According to Dolamic, the company only submitted bids for the Markovec tunnel and even warned DARS about suspicious activities of some other companies.

CPM also rejected the suspicion of cartel agreements in a press release. The inspection is related to a "number of public procurements in the majority of which our company did not even participate", CPM said.

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