Firms accused of price fixing
DuPont Co, the world’s biggest producer of titanium-dioxide pigment, and three other manufacturers were accused by retailers in a lawsuit of conspiring to manipulate prices for the substance. Los Gatos Ace Hardware in Los Gatos, California, and six other retailers sued on behalf of a nationwide group of indirect purchasers of titanium dioxide, an ingredient in white paint. They claim they paid inflated prices for products containing the pigment since 2002, according to a complaint filed on Saturday in federal court in San Jose, California. DuPont and the other defendants control more than 70 percent of the world’s titanium dioxide capacity and all of the US capacity, according to the complaint. They increased prices while demand for the pigment declined, the retailers alleged. The plaintiffs seek a court order allowing them to sue as a group and recover triple damages.
No capital loss: central bank
The Bank of Spain said on Saturday there were no signs of capital flight from the country as a result of developments in Cyprus, where eurozone ministers are demanding that depositors forfeit some of their savings to avert bankruptcy. “As far as I am concerned, the Spanish banking system is running under absolutely normal conditions,” a spokesman for the bank said. Europe bailed out Spain’s weakest banks last year to the tune of 40 billion euros (US$52 billion) to prop up a financial system badly damaged by a 2008 housing and construction crash. The nation’s banking sector has undergone a massive clean-up since then, transferring over 50 billion euros of toxic real-estate assets to a so-called ‘bad bank’ set up as a condition of the rescue. However, the country’s GDP sank for the sixth straight quarter at the end of last year and at its fastest rate since 2009.
Panasonic mulls health unit
Panasonic Corp is considering “various options” for the growth of its healthcare unit, spokeswoman Megumi Kitagawa said by phone yesterday, declining to comment on a report that it may sell the business. The company is considering selling the unit for between “a few tens of billion yen” to ￥100 billion (US$1.04 billion), the Nikkei said yesterday without citing anyone. Private equity funds such as KKR & Co may be interested in buying the unit, it said. A sale of the healthcare unit is part of the firm’s plan to accelerate divesting “non-core” businesses, the Nikkei said. The healthcare unit reported an operating loss of ￥8.8 billion for the fiscal year ended March last year, on sales of ￥133.6 billion the Nikkei said.
Gabon workers end strike
Gabon’s oil workers’ union said yesterday it had suspended a week-long strike after the government agreed to improve working conditions for Gabonese staff and expel about 3,000 undocumented foreign employees. Oil workers in Gabon have long complained about higher wages paid to expatriate workers and say many of them do not have the right work permits and papers. “The government has given us what we want,” ONEP union spokesman Aime Ipandi told reporters by telephone. No one was immediately available to comment from the government. Oil majors Total and Royal Dutch Shell have said the strike did not affect their operations, despite union reports to the contrary. The two companies dominate Gabon’s roughly 240,000 barrels-per-day oil sector, and previous strikes by ONEP have forced them to shut their fields.