The European Commission (EC) last week opened a formal antitrust investigation into potential manipulation of ethanol benchmarks by three ethanol producers, including Spain's Abengoa SA.
The commission is looking into whether Abengoa, Belgium's Alcogroup SA and Sweden's Lantmannen have colluded to manipulate ethanol benchmarks published by the price reporting agency Platts. The companies may have agreed between them to submit or support bids with the aim of influencing benchmarks upwards and thus driving up ethanol prices, according to the announcement.
"Competitive biofuels markets are crucial to promote cleaner transport and to cut greenhouse gas emissions," noted commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy.
The commission's investigation started with unannounced inspections in May 2013. There is no legal deadline for completing an antitrust probe.
The news is a fresh blow to engineering and renewables company Abengoa, which at the end of November initiated insolvency proceedings and has four months to avoid bankruptcy.