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Asahi, Nippon Electric, Schott to Pay $178 Million EU Fine

Asahi Glass Co., Nippon Electric Glass Co. and Schott AG agreed to pay 128.7 million euros ($178 million) in fines to end a European Union probe into price-fixing of glass used for television and computer screens.

Asahi was fined 45.1 million euros, Nippon Electric Glass will pay 43.2 million euros and Schott will pay 40.4 million euros for colluding with Samsung Corning Precision Glass to fix prices for bulb glass used in cathode-ray tubes for TV screens from 1999 to 2004, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement today.

Samsung Corning, a joint venture between Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Corning Inc., wasn’t fined because it was the first company to tell regulators about the cartel. The EU said it reduced fines for the other companies because they cooperated and agreed to settle the charges.

The fines follow record antitrust penalties in the glass industry. Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA was fined 896 million euros in 2008 over claims it fixed the price of car windows along with other companies. In 2007, Saint-Gobain, plus a Nippon Sheet Glass Co. unit and two competitors were fined a total of 487 million euros for participating in a separate cartel involving glass used in the construction industry.

“Firms should be under no illusion about the commission’s resolve to fight cartels and impose fines that should deter them from breaching competition rules in the EU,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition chief, said in the statement.

Korean Probe

Asahi Glass has already made “sufficient provision” for the fine and no longer produces glass for cathode-ray tubes, spokesman Masahiko Tobari said in an e-mailed statement. The company said its cathode-ray tube glass business is also being probed by the Korean Fair Trade Commission.

Nippon Electric Glass, Schott and Samsung Corning didn’t respond to e-mails and calls seeking comment.

Regulators raided offices of the specialty glass companies in March 2009. The European Commission is also investigating Royal Philips Electronics NV and other companies for fixing the price of cathode ray tubes. Sales of the tubes have fallen as consumers switched to slimmer LCD and plasma screens.

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