A federal court jury in Houston has awarded at least $52 million to a Houston steel distributor that claimed Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. and other companies colluded to hinder its growth.

MM Steel, founded by former Reliance employees Matt Schultz and Mike Hume, filed suit in 2012 saying that Reliance., a Los Angeles-based metals services provider, and its Chapel Steel Corp. unit worked with Nucor Corp., American Alloy Steel Inc. and JSW Steel (USA) Inc. to deprive the company of the steel necessary to compete in the Gulf Coast region.

Reliance said Wednesday that the $52 million damage award is expected to be tripled under federal antitrust laws. The company said it plans to appeal the jury decision.

"We continue to believe that Reliance and Chapel acted appropriately and within their legal rights," Chief Executive David Hannah said in a statement.

Shares closed down $1.62, or 2 percent, to $69.56 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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