China yesterday fined four Taiwanese and two South Korean flat-panel manufacturers 353 million yuan (US$56.6 million) for price-fixing.
The move follows similar anti-trust suits by the US and Europe that have resulted in billions of US dollars in penalties for display manufacturers.
The six companies — South Korea’s Samsung Display and LG Display, and Taiwan’s Innolux Corp (群創光電), AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), Chunghwa Picture Tubes (中華映管) and HannStar Display Corp (瀚宇彩晶) — were found to have fixed prices for LCD screens sold in China from 2001 to 2006, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement posted on its Web site yesterday.
The six “held meetings once a month in Taiwan or South Korea to exchange information about the LCD panel market and negotiate panel prices,” the commission said.
“The price manipulation has damaged the interests of [Chinese LCD TV] companies and consumers,” as the flat panels accounted for as much as 80 percent of the manufacturing costs for Chinese TV manufacturers, it said.
The nation’s two top makers, Innolux and AU Optronics, were fined 94.41 million yuan and 21.89 million yuan respectively. Smaller panel makers Chunghwa Picture and HannStar were fined 16.2 million yuan and 240,000 yuan respectively.
Samsung and LG bore the brunt, with fines of 101 million yuan and 144 million yuan respectively, the statement showed.
Innolux, previously named Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子), and AU Optronics said the punishment would not have a material effect on their operations.
“The company has already booked a non-operating loss [for the price-fixing suit],” Innolux spokesman Lin Chen-hui (林振輝) said in an e-mailed statement.
Innolux said the ruling was “regrettable,” as the company had talked to the commission a few months ago in an attempt to solve the problem.
AU Optronics declined to comment on an earlier Chinese media report alleging it would be exempted from the fine because it had pleaded guilty prior to the ruling.
The Chinese authority said some of the companies under investigation have pleaded guilty and thereby were fined less.
The commission said the price-fixing case involves 5.15 million flat panels, from which the six suppliers made 208 million yuan in illegal profits.
In addition to punitive fines, the panel manufacturers were required to extend their maintenance service to 36 months from the original 18 months.
AU Optronics and Innolux shares were unchanged at NT$13.80 and NT$16.80 yesterday, retreating from gains made earlier in the day.