The East German Cement Cartel: Cartel Efficiency and Policy after Economic Transformation

In 2003 the German Antitrust Commission (GAC) proved the existence of a cartel in the German cement industry. The German cement producers involved in the case were fined € 661 million for having established quotas to extract additional rents. One of the main centers of this cartel was East Germany, where the East German Cement Combine with its giant facilities had been sold, in the early 1990s, to four large producers by Treuhand in the process of privatizing the economy. Only in respect to in this market did all defendants concede having had a part in forming a cartel. In this paper, we challenge the argument of excess revenue that the GAC puts forward for the East German market. We argue that legal evidence does not necessarily translate into economic evidence. We show that demand for cement is realized in geographical and, to a more limited extent, in product space. Thus, in the absence of cartels we would expect monopolistic competition to prevail. We argue that any transition in the market regime, from the cartel to the post cartel period, must be traceable in the individual firm’s demand function which differs from the clients’ demand function because of costs for spatial and product differentiation. Within the framework of an econometric model, we cannot identify any structural changes in demand. Most likely, imports from Poland and the Czech Republic were dumped into the East German market and some medium sized producers were responsible for the cartel never working. Finally the paper shows how difficult it is to generate competition in certain industries even under the umbrella of a well-established market economy, i.e. that of West Germany, and that the openness of the economy, i.e. trans-border shipments, are decisive.

01. July 2007

Authors Ulrich Blum

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