Japanese Firms Raided For Alleged Steel Price Collusion

Nippon, JFE Steel, Sumitomo Metal Industries and Kubota all visited by Fair Trade Commission.

Japan's fair trade watchdog raided the offices of four companies July 31 in connection with suspected price fixing in steel products used in construction, the firms said. Nippon Steel Corp., JFE Steel Corp., Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and Kubota Corp. confirmed they were visited by the Fair Trade Commission.

"We cannot comment on the matter as the inspection is ongoing, but our company will fully cooperate with the authorities," Nippon Steel said. Japan's number-two steelmaker JFE Steel and machinery maker Kubota issued similar statements. "The authorities explained to us the inspection was related to sales of sheet piles and steel pipe piles, both of which are products widely used for construction," a JFE Steel spokesman said.

Sumitomo Metal Industries said it believed "there were no illegal activities in our business, but we will cooperate fully with the investigation."

Kyodo News reported the four companies are suspected of having consulted and agreed on the timing and margins of price hikes for steel pegs sold to construction companies in 2004 and 2005, citing unnamed sources.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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