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Wine Industry Insight
Amsterdam, Friday 24th February 2017: Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB), a leading independent brewery in Greece, has filed a major legal action against Europeâ€™s largest brewer, Heineken NV, and its 98.8%-owned Greek operating company, Athenian Brewery (AB), for nearly two decades of anti-competitive market abuse.
This follows a 12-year-long investigation by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), the longest in its history, which found that AB had illegally abused its dominant market position in Greece, in violation of Greek and EU competition law.
MTBâ€™s case before the Court of Amsterdam, commercial division, seeks damages in excess of â‚¬100 million.
Demetri Politopoulos, MTBâ€™s founder and CEO said: â€śGreek authorities revealed the full extent and intensity of the illegal anti-competitive abuse of Heineken through its Greek operating company. For decades Heineken has been acting like a giant bully whoâ€™ll stop at nothing to get its way. It has been illegally distorting the Greek beer market while protecting the supremacy it wields, by coercing and intimidating distributors, retailers and wholesalers, and ultimately ripping off consumers.
â€śHeineken could have stopped this illegal activity to stifle fair competition in Greece, but chose to turn a blind eye, while gladly plundering profits from decades of blatant abuses.â€ť
MTB is taking legal action in the Netherlands to:
Founded by brothers Michael and Demetri Politopoulos in Komotini, Greece, MTB now has a 6% share of the Greek beer market through its premium beer Vergina.
In a damning 700-page judgment, published in December 2015, the HCC found that over the 16-year period investigated, from 1998-2014, AB had: â€śadopted and implemented a single and targeted policy that sought to exclude its competitors from all segments of the market â€“ on-trade (e.g. HORECA â€“ hotels, bars and restaurants) as well as off-trade retail outlets, and to limit their growth possibilitiesâ€¦â€ť
The HCC further stated that AB had â€śemployed various commercial practices aimed at exclusivity, including significant payments conditional upon exclusivity and/or the foreclosure of competitive brands, loyalty and target rebatesâ€ť and â€śengaged in restrictive practices at the wholesale level, by providing wholesalers with significant economic motives that promote exclusivity and by exercising pressure on them not to trade or introduce competing productsâ€ť.
The HCC handed down a record fine of â‚¬31,451,211 on AB.
The HCC also instructed AB to immediately â€ścease the infringementâ€ť, threatening fines of â‚¬10,000 a day for any continuing abuses.
Mr Politopoulos added: â€śWe need Greece to benefit from a fair and competitive environment that encourages investment, new market entrants, healthy competition and economic growth. Together this will help Greece on the path to economic recovery.â€ť
For more information contact:
David Wilson +44 7909 974994
On behalf of Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB)
Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB) was founded in 1996 by brothers Michael and Demetri Politopoulos in Komotini, Greece. Proud Greek nationals, they set up MTB as an independent brewer at a time when no premium Greek beer brands existed in the market. All Greek beer production was then either partly or wholly owned by foreign breweries. The brothers believed in the potential of brewing beer in Greece, by Greeks, using local ingredients, for Greek consumers â€“ and its premium Vergina lager launched to market in February 1998. MTB continues to be a wholly Greek-owned brewery.