By Laura He, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — China has issued a dozen Japanese companies with the largest antitrust fine in recent history, the state’s top regulator said Wednesday, though it decided to give two of the offenders a pass.
The 10 of the companies — all auto parts or ball-bearing manufacturers — were fined a total of $1.235 billion ($200 million) for monopolistic price-fixing in China markets, making it the largest anti-monopoly fine since China implemented its antitrust laws in 2008, according to state-run broadcaster CCTV.
Eight of the Japanese entities were auto parts suppliers, and were fined a combined total of 832 million yuan, with the initial list included Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -0.26% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +2.28% , Sumitomo Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209745829/delayed JP:8053 -0.09% /zigman2/quotes/206178180/delayed SSUMF -3.12% , Denso Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201343434/delayed JP:6902 -0.34% /zigman2/quotes/200311585/delayed DNZOF +1.51% , and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207150000/delayed JP:6503 -0.67% /zigman2/quotes/210515602/delayed MIELF -3.47% .
According to the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s top economic planner, the manufacturers unfairly set prices for auto parts from 2000 to 2010. The parts were sold to the likes of Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -0.07% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.02% , Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +1.10% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.05% , Nissan Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -0.06% /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY -0.50% , Suzuki Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201794956/delayed JP:7269 -0.31% /zigman2/quotes/208973828/delayed SZKMF +1.50% , and Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -1.74% , the NDRC said.
However, it added that Hitachi would be exempted from any financial penalties, as it voluntarily admitted to the offenses and provided important evidence against the other companies.
The other four fined firms were ball-bearing manufacturers — specifically NSK Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203626915/delayed JP:6471 -0.77% /zigman2/quotes/205623483/delayed NPSKF -2.34% , NTN Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205954841/delayed JP:6472 -1.02% , JTEKT Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205700737/delayed JP:6473 -0.26% /zigman2/quotes/205366593/delayed JTEKF +16.73% , and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207994065/delayed JP:6474 -0.62% — which raised the prices of ball bearings sold in China between 2000 and 2011, the NDRC statement said.
However, Nachi-Fujikoshi was, like Hitachi, exempted from the fines for also coming clean and offering details of the price-fixing.
Back in May, NSK, NTN and Nachi-Fujikoshi were fined more than $7 million by Singapore for purported price-fixing. The majority of the penalties were assessed against Nachi-Fujikoshi, in what Reuters reported at the time was the biggest fine the city-state’s regulator has ever levied.
China issued its first antitrust fine against a foreign firm last year when several Korean and Taiwanese panel makers were imposed total fines and confiscations of more than 150 million yuan.