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Japan-Update

EU fines Japanese shippers over auto-transport cartel

Kawasaki Kisen and Nippon Yusen punished for colluding with foreign peers

BRUSSELS -- The European Union hit four maritime transport companies, including two from Japan, with fines totaling roughly 395 million euros ($486 million) for involvement in an auto shipping cartel.

The European Commission found that Nippon Yusen, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines of Japan, Chilean shipper Compania Sudamericana de Vapores, and Northern European shipping duo Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and EUKOR Car Carriers colluded between 2006 and 2012 to set rates for transporting new vehicles on routes between Europe, North America, Asia and other regions. These five parties handled nearly half of the nearly 10 million vehicles shipped to or from Europe by sea in 2016, the commission said.

Mitsui O.S.K. alerted authorities to the cartel, for which the commission granted it immunity. Regulators from Europe, Japan, the U.S. and elsewhere cooperated in the probe, which began in 2012.

"We will be active in this area as long as we keep finding companies that hope to make higher profits by colluding instead of competing," Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy, told a news conference Wednesday.

Nippon Yusen was ordered to pay 141.82 million euros, while Kawasaki Kisen was fined 39.1 million euros.

Nippon Yusen had set aside about 19.6 billion yen ($182 million) in reserves in anticipation of the penalty. "We expect the effect on earnings for the fiscal year ending March 2018 to be minor," a public relations representative said.

An investor-relations and PR representative for Kawasaki Kisen said the company is "still confirming" the fine's impact.

Japan's Fair Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice previously imposed fines on both companies. Nippon Yusen paid a total of about 20.1 billion yen, while Kawasaki Kisen shelled out 13.1 billion yen.

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