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'Price fix' fine for LG and Samsung

China has fined LG and Samsung and four Taiwanese companies a total of 144 million yuan (14 million) for fixing the prices of LCD display screens, the government said.

The move reflected Beijing's growing enforcement of its laws on pricing and competition against global companies and some Chinese entities to support its economic development goals.

China's economic planning agency said investigators found the display-manufacturing arms of South Korea's LG and Samsung as well as the four Taiwanese suppliers met to agree on prices to charge for flat-panel screens sold to Chinese manufacturers of computers, TV sets and other electronics.

Envoys from LG Display, Samsung Display and the Taiwanese suppliers met every quarter in 2001-06 to set prices of screens at a time when supply outstripped demand, pushing down market prices, according to Western and Chinese regulators.

Samsung owns 85% of Samsung Display, the biggest display manufacturer. LG Display is a publicly traded company in which LG owns a 38% stake.

In addition to the fines, the companies were ordered to repay a total of 172 million yuan (17 million) to Chinese customers, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement.

It said authorities also seized 36.8 million yuan (3.6 million) from the companies, raising the total of money in the case to 353 million yuan (35 million). The display makers "manipulated market prices and damaged the lawful interests of other companies and consumers," said an NDRC statement.

The Taiwanese companies are AU Optronics, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, HannStar Display and Chi Mei.

Samsung Display does not dispute the Chinese government's statement, said a company official. LG Display said it "remains committed to operating with full transparency in providing the best quality products and services to its global customers".

Chi Mei, which has been renamed Innolux, said in a statement it has set aside money to pay the fines, indicating it would not appeal. Spokespeople for AU Optronics and Chunghwa Picture Tubes said the companies would cooperate with investigators.

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