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98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 293/3

Communication made in accordance with Article 19(3) of Council Regulation No 17 (Î)

concerning a request for negative clearance or for exemption pursuant to Article 85(3) of the
EC Treaty
Case No IV/36.759 — National Sulphuric Acid Association

(98/C 293/03)

(Text with EEA relevance)

I. Procedural background the joint purchasing of sulphur through the Pool.

Given the high transportation costs and the
1.ÙOn 12 November 1997 the Commission received requirement for specialised handling and storage
notification from the National Sulphuric Acid facilities, only by the aggregation of individual orders
Association Limited (the Association) in respect of the can the importation of sulphur be economically viable
rules (the Rules) applying to its sulphur joint- for such users. The Pool’s enhanced negotiating
purchasing pool (the Pool). position with suppliers ensures a greater security of
supply at reasonable import prices, which would not
otherwise be available to members on an individual
The Rules have already been the subject of two basis.
successive exemption Decisions under Article 85(3) of
the Treaty. The first exemption (Decision
4.ÙSince the 1989 exemption decision the situation of the
80/917/EEC)Ø(Ï) was granted on 9 July 1980 and was
Pool has evolved as follows:
issued for a period ending on 31 December 1988.
Following an application of the Association pursuant
to Article 8(2) of Regulation No 17, in June 1989 the —Ùat the date of notification, eight companies
Commission adopted a Decision (89/408/EEC)Ø(Ð) (compared with 13 in 1988) are members of the
renewing the initial exemption for a period of 10 Pool. Some companies which have left the Pool
years, expiring on 31 December 1998. source their requirements outside the Pool, and
the amount of sulphur purchased outside the Pool
has increased. In 1966 purchases of sulphur via the
On 21 March 1994 the Association notified a number Pool represented approximately 55Ø% of total
of modifications to the Rules of the joint-purchasing sulphur imports into the UK, and 30Ø% of the
pool. The Commission issued a comfort letter on 8 total UK consumption of sulphur. In this period,
October 1996, confirming that the modified Rules the share of sulphuric acid produced by members
continued to qualify for exemption granted by of the Pool amounts to just under a third of
Decision 89/408/EEC. domestic production. Resales to third parties by
Pool members also represent just under a third of
the total resale,
II. The facts
—Ùmodifications to the Rules were adopted,
2.ÙThe key function of the Pool is to negotiate and following the Commission’s issue of a comfort
purchase sulphur on behalf of its members, most of letter, at the Association’s annual general meeting
whom are primarily producers of sulphuric acid in the on 2 December 1996. Three main changes were
United Kingdom. The Pool is governed by a adopted. Firstly, access to the Pool was opened to
management committee consisting of one represen- sulphur purchasers who are not producers of
tative of each member of the Pool. The management sulphuric acid. Secondly, the capacity of the Pool
committee has the authority to act in matters relating to purchase sulphur on behalf of its members has
to the conduct, affairs and operation of the Pool. The been extended to the purchase of indigenous UK
Pool members submit to the Association a statement sulphur. Thirdly, the requirement for a company
of their sulphur requirements at six-monthly intervals. to purchase a minimum of 25Ø% of its total
The Association enters into the necessary contracts in purchase of sulphur through the Pool has been
accordance with the Pool members’ requirements. removed,
The Pool members are then obliged to purchase their
stated tonnage.
—Ùthe management committee remains entitled to
terminate a membership of the Pool on six
3.ÙThe rationale of the Pool is to allow users, many of month’s notice, in circumstances where the
whom have insufficient requirements to economically member is no longer participating to any appre-
justify importing sulphur individually, to benefit from ciable degree in the purchasing of sulphur from
the Pool, or where the member is in breach of any
(Î)ÙOJ 13, 21.2.1962, p. 204/62. of the Rules of the Pool. Among these Rules
(Ï)ÙOJ L 260, 3.10.1980, p. 24. stands a non-competition and non-solicitation
(Ð)ÙOJ L 190, 5.7.1989, p. 22. clause according to which members shall not,
C 293/4 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 22.9.98

without the prior consent of the management a marked reduction in the production of phosphoric
committee, engage or attempt to engage in the acid and fertilisers, whose manufacture requires
importation of liquid sulphur for resale to any sulphuric acid. The production of the latter in the UK
person in the UK; solicit, divert, interfere with or has declined from approximately 3,6 million tonnes
disrupt the Pool’s relationship with any supplier or when the first exemption was granted, to 2 million
customer of the Pool or otherwise compete with tonnes in 1990 and to an estimated 1,25 million
the Pool activities. tonnes in 1996.

5.ÙAs regards the sulphur market, the main evolution has III. The Commission’s intentions
been an increasing availability of indigenous refinery
sulphur on the UK market, which had an impact on 6.ÙOn the basis of the information at its disposal, the
the balance between imports and domestic Commission intends to take a favourable position on
consumption. Whereas indigenous sources of sulphur the notified arrangements. Before doing so, the
represented approximately 15Ø% of the total of Commission invites interested third parties to send
sulphur used by the industry concerned in the UK in their comments within 30 days of the publication of
1989, in 1996 it represented approximately 43Ø% of this notice, quoting reference IV/E-2/36.759/NSAA,
the UK market. However, there is a variety of factors to the following address:
limiting the availability of domestic refinery sulphur,
and thus there is a continuing requirement for
imported sulphur. European Commission,
Directorate-General for Competition (DG IV (E/2)),
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200 (Office 02/40),
Though still widely used in industry, the UK B-1049 Brussels,
sulphuric acid market is in decline, principally due to Fax (32-2) 299Ø24Ø64.

Commission notice pursuant to Article 19(3) of Council Regulation No 17 (Î) concerning case
No IV/36.581 — T~l~com D~veloppement

(98/C 293/04)
(Text with EEA relevance)


On 9 July 1997 the Commission received notification, C~g~tel is a jointly-owned subsidiary of Compagnie
pursuant to Article 2 and 4 of Council Regulation No G~n~rale des Eaux (France), BT (United Kingdom),
17, of various agreements concerning T~l~com D~velop- Mannesmann (Germany) and SBCI (United States) and
pement (France) (hereinafter referred to as TD) is active in the telecommunications sector in France.
concluded on 11 April 1997 between Soci~t~ Nationale
des Chemins de Fer (France) and C~g~tel (France).

SNCF is a public undertaking with both industrial and

commercial activities, providing transport services on the
The agreements, in conjunction with the C~g~tel French national rail network. Its core activities are
Agreements (Case No IV/36.592), are part of a trans- passenger and freight transport, and related and comple-
action involving the setting-up of the second full-service mentary activities.
telecommunications operator in France. The TD joint
venture is structural in nature.

TD is a jointly-owned subsidiary of SNCF and C~g~tel,

whose field of activities is the construction, maintenance
and operation of long-distance telecommunications
(Î)ÙOJ 13, 21.2.1962, p. 204/62. networks.