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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Asian Panel Makers Facing Investigation of Price Fixing


The world`s leading panel makers in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan are facing a major blow, as fair trade institutions in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are jointly investigating their alleged involvement in price fixing and may inflict huge fines on them if proven guilty.

Panel makers under investigation include Samsung, LPL, Sharp, NEC, Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), and AU Optronics (AUO), all of which denied the charge on Dec. 12.

AUO confirmed last night that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Japan Fair Trade Commission are carrying out anti-trust investigation against the TFT-LCD industry, adding that AUO`s U.S. and Japanese affiliates will cooperate with them for the investigation.

CMO reported that its U.S. subsidiary IDTech has received request from the U.S. Department of Justice, asking it to assist the investigation by providing relevant information; the move, however, didn`t mean that CMO is an investigative target, according to CMO.

In the previous case involving price fixing among PC chipmakers, the U.S. Department of Justice fined four chipmakers, including Samsung, and 16 individuals US$731 million in total, the second highest ever. The on-going investigation will further aggravate the plight of the panel industry, already mired in sluggish business.

Taiwanese panel makers denied the existence of price fixing in the line, citing varied performances of leading panel makers in the third quarter, including US$2.3 billion profits of Samsung, US$400 million deficit of LPL, 46.5 billion Japanese yen profits of Sharp, 7.4 billion Japanese yen deficit of NEC, NT$1.4 billion red ink of CMO, and NT$613 million profit of AUO. The situation underscores difficulty for price fixing in the line, different from the feast-or-famine market situation of the DRAM industry.


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