The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Macedonian Brewery sues Heineken for €100 million

“Bucharest, Romania – July 26, 2011: Close-up shot of a Heineken beer ad. Heineken is a Dutch beer which has been brewed by Heineken International since 1873.”

Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB), a leading independent brewery in Greece, has filed major legal action against Europe’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.

MTB’s case before the Court of Amsterdam, commercial division, seeks damages in excess of €100 million.

Demetri Politopoulos, MTB’s founder and CEO said: “Greek 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 who’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.

“Heineken 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,” he said.

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: “Adopted and implemented a single and targeted policy that sought to exclude its competitors from all segments of the market – on-trade (e.g. HORECA – hotels, bars and restaurants) as well as off-trade retail outlets, and to limit their growth possibilities…”

The HCC further stated that AB had “employed various commercial practices aimed at exclusivity, including significant payments conditional upon exclusivity and/or the foreclosure of competitive brands, loyalty and target rebates” and “engaged 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 products”.

The HCC handed down a record fine of €31,451,211 on AB.

The HCC also instructed AB to immediately “cease the infringement”, threatening fines of €10,000 a day for any continuing abuses.

Mr Politopoulos added: “We 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.”