Arla facing steep fines in competition probe

Scandinavian dairy producer Arla Foods faces more than 7 billion kronor ($900 million) in fines if the company is found to have breached laws ensuring fair competition.

Arla’s competitors remain cautious about commenting on the case, launched in April by Sweden’s Competition Authority (Konkurrensverket), explaining that in times of cut-throat competition, it’s hard to know for sure whether or not Arla broke the rules.

The Competition Authority alleges that Arla had a plan to “more or less completely shut competing companies out of the market”.

The company is suspected of forcing vendors to accept contract terms designed to keep competitors’ products off store shelves.

The agency believes agreements were made with the Coop, Axfood, Netto, Bergendahlsgruppen, and Lidl grocery chains, and perhaps with Ica grocery stores as well.

If Arla is found guilty, the company would be hit with an anti-trust fine of up to 10 percent of the company’s turnover.

For Arla, the maximum fine would be equivalent to around 7.5 billion kronor, according to the Lantbrukets Affärstidning (ATL).

Arla’s competitors have been careful in expressing their opinion on the allegations. In a tight market, it’s hard to know what’s what, said Erik Gumabon, the head of the dairy company Milko, to the TT news agency.

“But we’re keeping a close eye on this and will follow the findings of the Competition Authority closely,” he added.

Lena Lundvall, CEO of dairy producer Valio Sverige, said that Valio doesn’t know whether or not Arla broke the rules.

“The competition is really tough in this market and it’s worth pointing out that there is really strong competition on prices,” she told TT.

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Major Swedish supermarket chain hit by cyberattack

One of Sweden's biggest supermarket chains said Saturday it had to temporarily close around 800 stores nationwide after a cyberattack blocked access to its checkouts.

Major Swedish supermarket chain hit by cyberattack
A Coop store in Stockholm. credit: Ali Lorestani/TT

“One of our subcontractors was hit by a digital attack, and that’s why our checkouts aren’t working any more,” Coop Sweden, which accounts for around 20 percent of the sector, said in a statement.

“We regret the situation and will do all we can to reopen swiftly,” the cooperative added.

Coop Sweden did not name the subcontractor or reveal the hacking method used against it beginning on Friday evening.

But the Swedish subsidiary of the Visma software group said the problem was linked to a mayor cyber attack on US IT company Kaseya on Friday.

Kaseya has urged customers to shut down servers running its VSA platform after dozens were hit with ransomware attacks.

A wave of ransomware attacks has struck worldwide recently, especially in the United States.

Ransomware attacks typically involve locking away data in systems using encryption, making companies pay to regain access.

Last year, hackers extorted at least $18 billion using such software, according to security firm Emsisoft.

In recent weeks, such attacks have hit oil pipelines, health services and major firms, and made it onto the agenda of US President Joe Biden’s June meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.