LG Said to Face EU Fines With Philips, Panasonic for Cartel
LG Electronics Inc. (066570), Panasonic Corp. (6752) and Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHIA) may be fined by European Union antitrust regulators within weeks over price-fixing agreements for cathode-ray tubes used in televisions, four people said.
Technicolor SA (TCH) is also among companies earmarked for possible European Commission fines as soon as Nov. 28, one of the people said. Other manufacturers including Toshiba Corp. have been asked to meet with EU officials prior to a preliminary decision on fines by a panel of EU and national competition authorities, another person said. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the process isn’t public.
Sales of cathode-ray tubes used in televisions and computer monitors fell after customers switched to slimmer liquid-crystal and plasma display sets. Philips and Technicolor, previously known as Thomson SA, received objections in the EU probe in 2009. Antitrust watchdogs in the EU, Japan and South Korea raided companies in 2007 over concerns they colluded to fix prices for tubes in computer monitors and color televisions.
The commission can fine cartel members as much as 10 percent of their annual sales. Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the Brussels-based authority, declined to comment on the matter.
Joost Akkermans, a spokesman for Amsterdam-based Philips, declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing. Thibault Peulen, a spokesman for Technicolor in Paris, declined to comment. Tokyo-based Toshiba declined to immediately comment. LG and Panasonic didn’t immediately respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Chunghwa Picture Tubes (2475) Ltd. won’t be fined because it was the first to inform regulators of the cartel, two people said. Chunghwa didn’t immediately respond to two calls and two e-mails seeking comment. Hitachi Ltd. (6501) and Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., an affiliate of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., are also involved in the case, one person said. Hitachi and Samsung didn’t immediately respond to calls and e-mails.
Philips and LG said in June that they’d received supplementary objections from regulators. The EU made the complaint to hold them responsible for the behavior of LG.Philips Displays, a now-defunct joint venture that made the tubes, two people familiar with the matter said at the time. LG.Philips Displays’ European holding company was declared bankrupt in 2006.
LG Display Co., partly owned by Seoul-based LG Electronics, was among companies fined 648.9 million euros ($828 million) by the EU in 2010 for fixing the price of LCD panels used in televisions, computer monitors and notebook computers.
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