Japanese Rubber Makers Probed Over Worldwide Cartel

Bridgestone and Yokohama subjected to inspections.

A Japanese anti-trust watchdog raided rubber makers Bridgestone and Yokohama on May 7 in connection with a suspected international cartel to fix prices for marine hoses used to move oil. "We are making on-the-spot inspections at the premises of these firms today. We cannot comment whether we will investigate other companies as well," an administrative director at the Fair Trade Commission said.

Both Bridgestone Corp. and Yokohama Rubber Co., which dominate the domestic market for marine hoses, said in statements they were extending their "full cooperation" in the investigation.

The probe followed the arrest in the U.S. on May 2 of eight executives of six companies from Britain, France, Italy and Japan on suspicion of colluding in a cartel to fix prices for the hoses. Misao Hioki, a Bridgestone executive, was among the eight, according to a U.S. Justice Department announcement. The companies named by U.S .authorities are PW Consulting Ltd. (Britain), Dunlop Oil and Marine Ltd. (Britain), Trelleborg Industrie S.A. (France), Parker ITR (Italy), Manuli Rubber Industries SpA (Italy) and Bridgestone Corp. (Japan).

The department said the eight were involved in a "conspiracy to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate markets for U.S. sales of marine hose used to transport oil." Marine hoses are used to transport oil between tankers and storage facilities and buoys.

The European Commission said on May 4 it made unannounced inspections at the premises of marine hose producers in France, Italy and the United Kingdom in a concerted action with the U.S. Justice Department.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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