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Japan likely to fine Nippon Yusen, three other shippers
* At $210 mln, would be Japan’s second-biggest cartel penalty
* Nippon Yusen, three other shippers received draft penalty
* Auto shipments at heart of Japan, European, U.S. probes
* Japanese regulator may issue final order by end March (Recasts, adds information on expected fine amount and Japanese shippers)
Japan’s anti-trust regulator is likely to fine Nippon Yusen KK and three other shipping companies a total of around 22 billion yen ($210 million) for price-fixing of automobile shipping, the country’s second-biggest ever penalty for price rigging, a source with close knowledge of the matter said.
Japan’s Nippon Yusen, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd and Nissan Motor Car Carrier, as well as Norway’s Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL), said on Thursday they have received a draft fine order from Japan’s Fair Trade Commission.
WWL faces a $33 million fine, one of its parent companies said. The three other companies declined to comment on the details of the draft order.
The four companies are suspected of conspiring to fix the prices of automobile shipments from Japan to North America and Europe, including vehicles made by Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co, the source said.
Regulators in the United States and Europe are also probing the case, another source said.
“We will carefully study this draft order and consider how to respond,” Nippon Yusen said in a statement.
Japan is likely to issue a final ruling by the end of March, the source with close knowledge of the matter said.
The four companies as well as Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd and EUKOR Car Carriers said they have been under investigation from the Japanese regulator.
Mitsui O.S.K. is expected to seek leniency in exchange for cooperation, Japanese media reported. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.
EUKOR Car Carriers, held 40 percent by Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA , has not been named in the draft orders, the Wilhemsen companies said.
Nissan Motor Car carrier is a subsidiary of Mitsui O.S.K. WWL is owned 50 percent by Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA, which is 72.7 percent held by Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA.
($1 = 104.8350 Japanese yen)
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