Italy's antitrust authority has fined Air Liquide Italia SpA €23.1m and Linde Gas Italia Srl €3.6m as part of a €56.9m set of fines against eight firms which it said shared customers in the industrial gas sector, restricting competition.

Forbes news service has reported that eight companies have been fined by the authority, which found that the companies agreed to share customers between themselves for the 13 years up to 2004.

According to the statement the companies fined represent 90 per cent of the reference market, producing and selling numerous gases used in food, electric, metals, engineering and health sectors.

The agreement was activated via meetings and contacts during which was established the balance of customers (between the companies) and exchanged information on pricing.

Other companies fined included Italy's Sapio Srl and Siad SpA, which each received an €8.4m fine, SOL SpA €6.8m, Rivoira €5.6m, SON SpA €600,000, and Sico SpA €400,000.

In the same decision, the authority refused to authorise a production joint venture between Sapio, Rivoira and Siad, called Chemgas Srl, Forbes reported.

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