Yielding to minister’s threats, cement firms reduce prices

After raising per-ton cement prices last week–in a move largely seen as unjustified–local cement companies Thursday retracted the decision after being threatened with legal action by Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid.

After receiving a "verbal" warning by the minister, cement firms–including industry bellwether Suez Cement, which commands 27 percent of the local market–agreed to reduce prices, according to Trade Ministry Undersecretary Hisham Ragab.

Ragab went on to note that the companies’ earlier decision to raise prices in unison, and by similar amounts, suggested that the move had been premeditated–considered a violation of anti-trust laws.
Officials at Lafarge Cement, for their part, say the company only raised its prices in the provinces so as to offset rising transportation costs, denying the existence of any tacit agreements with other companies.

Ministry officials expressed satisfaction with the price reductions, which, they said, would serve to "maintain market stability." Officials went on to say that the ministry would continue to facilitate cement imports in order to maintain a competitive price gap between local and imported cement.

Some local cement factories also reduced their production in recent weeks, in some cases pretending to be undergoing maintenance when they were actually reducing supply to bolster demand.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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