China Said to Probe Vehicle-Shipping Lines on Antitrust Claims

China’s top economic planning agency is investigating allegations of monopolistic practices by shipping lines that move vehicles, according to people familiar with the matter.

The National Development and Reform Commission probe involves several companies but focuses on Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Nippon Yusen KK because they control the bulk of the Chinese market, according to one person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the investigation hasn’t been made public.

China’s move follows similar investigations by the European Union in 2013 and Japan’s Fair Trade Commission in 2012, along with lawsuits in Canada and the United States.

Mitsui OSK closed down 0.5 percent at 394 yen in Tokyo trading Monday. Kawasaki Kisen ended down 1.8 percent at 269 yen and Nippon Yusen rose 1.8 percent to 345 yen.

Past Probes

Japanese regulators at one point raided the offices of five shipping lines over allegations that they discussed raising rates together for transporting cars. The regulators ultimately imposed a 13.1 billion yen ($106 million) fine on Nippon Yusen and a 5.7 billion yen fine on Kawasaki Kisen in January 2014.

AP Moller-Maersk A/S, owner of the world’s largest container shipping company, CMA CGM SA and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. were among 14 firms in a 2013 European Union antitrust probe over suspicions they colluded by signaling price changes. The EU drafted a possible deal with the companies that would spare them any immediate fines.

NDRC asked asked the Japanese companies to conduct internal investigations on their China operations and report back. The probe does not necessarily mean the shipping lines committed any violations.

Representatives of Mitsui OSK Lines, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Nippon Yusen KK declined to comment. NDRC did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

— With assistance by Hui Li, Steven Yang, and Clement Tan

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