BlueScope investigated over possible price-fixing

Time's up: BlueScope CEO Paul O'Malley announced his retirement on Monday, as the company recorded a $716 million profit. Picture: Adam McLean
Time's up: BlueScope CEO Paul O'Malley announced his retirement on Monday, as the company recorded a $716 million profit. Picture: Adam McLean

BlueScope employees at Port Kembla could be caught up in an investigation over possible price fixing.

At Monday’s announcement of the company’s 2017 financial year result of a $716 million profit, CEO Paul O’Malley said a number of employees are being investigated for cartel behaviour.

Cartel conduct usually refers to illegal measures like price fixing or restricting supply.

“Over the last financial year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been investigating potential cartel conduct by BlueScope relating to the supply of steel products in Australia that involved a small number of BlueScope employees in the period from late 2013 to mid 2014,” Mr O’Malley said.

“BlueScope has co-operated and is continuing to co-operate with the ACCC’s investigation.

“That investigation is ongoing and the company is not in a position to make any further comment at this time.”

BlueScope has declined to confirm or deny whether any employees at the Port Kembla steelworks were under investigation.

READ MORE: Port Kembla is the ‘jewel’ in BlueScope’s crown

The company’s 2017 profit was a 102 per cent improvement on the previous financial year, with the Australian Steel Products (which includes Port Kembla) seeing revenue up 27 per cent to $459.4 million.

It’s an ongoing struggle in that business.

BlueScope's Mark Vassalla on the Port Kembla steelworks

However, Mr O’Malley said rising energy costs “risks undermining recent cost and productivity improvements”.

“Combined gas and electricity costs for the company’s major manufacturing sites at Port Kembla, Springhill and Western Port are forecast to increase 75 per cent between FY2016 and FY2018, to an estimated $145M in FY2018,” he said.

At Monday’s announcement, Mr O’Malley said he will be leaving BlueScope at the end of the year.

He would be replaced in the top job by Bluescope’s Australia and New Zealand CEO Mark Vassella.

Mr Vassella said Port Kembla wasn’t out of the woods in the wake of the 2015 job cuts.

 “We have to maintain our cost competitive position in Port Kembla,’ Mr Vassella said.

“It’s an ongoing struggle in that business. The energy costs … are a significant issue for us and go to undo some of the good work that all of the people of Port Kembla have done over the last few years.

“We have an ongoing issue at Port Kembla that we need to maintain our cost competitiveness.”

This story BlueScope investigated over possible price-fixing first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.