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
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
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.