On 25 May 2011 the offices of some of the leading European and US manufacturers of engines used in power generation, agriculture and marine applications were the subject of dawn raids by the European Commission whose officers were seeking evidence of price fixing practices. The companies whose premises were searched include Caterpillar, GE and MAN SE. CAT’s UK subsidiary Perkins, which manufactures diesel engines, was also raided. All the companies involved have said that they are “co-operating fully with Commission officials”.

Other companies in the market, including Tognum, are understood to have been sent formal information request letters by the Commission.

The Commission undertook these raids because they had “reason to believe” that the companies involved had violated the EU’s price fixing rules. It was however stressed that these inspections are a preliminary step and do not necessarily imply guilt. The raids follow hard on the heels of a statement last month by Joaquin Almunia, the European Commission’s competition chief, to the effect that fighting cartels “is the top priority in competition enforcement”.

This investigation also comes soon after the Commission’s announcement that it is undertaking an in-depth review into the proposed acquisition by CAT of the German engine manufacturer Motoren-Werke Mannheim Holding (MWM). The decision on that merger is due in September.