SA's top anti-trust adjudicating body yesterday confirmed a nearly R400m settlement agreement between Unilever and competition authorities over the alleged market division of margarine.

Fin24 reports that the order will see the global consumer goods company pay a R16m administrative penalty, while making substantial investments in procurement and supplier development that bring the total settlement to just under R400m.

The settlement agreement, in which Unilever does not admit liability, is full and final.

The matter dates back six years when the Competition Commission accused Unilever and Malaysian firm Sime Darby Hudson Knight of dividing markets in the edible fats and oil industry in SA between 2004 and 2012.

It said when Unilever sold its refinery business to Sime Darby in 2004, the parties had reached agreements, including that Unilever would not supply industrial customers with its Flora-branded edible oils.

Among other agreements, Sime Darby allegedly agreed not to supply retail customers with its Crispa-branded edible oils.

Sime Darby settled the matter with the commission in July 2016.

Fin24 notes that the tribunal yesterday said the confirmation of Unilever’s settlement followed a hearing last Tuesday, during which the tribunal ‘exercised its inquisitorial powers to interrogate the terms of the agreement and heard submissions from both the commission and Unilever’.

Apart from the administrative penalty Unilever was paying, it would establish and administer an enterprise supplier development fund valued at R40m, which will provide interest-free business loans to qualifying black-owned manufacturing, logistics and wholesale industries. 

It will also provide interest-free business loans to qualifying black-owned companies needing start-up funds to enter those sectors.

Full Fin24 report