MOSCOW May 31 -- Russia's anti-trust body said on Monday it could fine U.S. aluminium giant Alcoa Inc (AA.N: Quote) along with local copper and zinc producers, pending the outcome of an investigation into possible anti-trust violations.
The investigation covers pricing at Alcoa's Metallurg Rus operations, as well as Chelyabinsk Zinc (CHZNq.L: Quote) and copper miner UMMC.
Alcoa denied any wrongdoing and said it was prepared to work together with Russian authorities and explain recent price hikes.
"Objective market factors exist, which force producers to raise prices," its press office said. "We hope to be able to defend our position in front of the FAS.
A spokeswoman for Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) said that if an investigation proves violations have taken place, the companies may be subject to a fine. She did not say how long the investigation may last and how big fines may be.
Rising prices in the metals sector have become a major issue in Russia in recent weeks. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met steel producers on Monday to iron out a compromise following a serious of complaints by producers.
The FAS said in a statement it suspected Alcoa Metallurg Rus of arbitrarily setting high prices on two aluminium alloys, of which it is the sole producer in Russia.
In a separate statement it said it suspected Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant of selling its metal at different prices to Russian and foreign consumers.
In a third statement it said it suspected Urals Mining and Metals Co (UMMC), the country's second largest copper producer, and a co-owner of Chelyabinsk, of setting different copper prices for foreign and Russian buyers.
UMMC declined to comment.