Shipping Firms in Talks to End EU Antitrust Probe

By MarEx 2014-06-03 11:20:00

The world's two biggest container shipping companies, AP Moeller-Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company, are seeking to end an EU antitrust probe and escaped possible fines, three people with knowledge of the case said on Tuesday.

The European Commission said in November last year that the companies and some of its rivals may have been illegally orchestrating price rises for European routes since 2009.

The case is being monitored by companies in other industries over concerns that public announcements on future prices and strategic plans may inadvertently put them in the antitrust crossfire.

The people said that in addition to Danish company Maersk and Switzerland-based MSC, also the world's No. 3 CMA CGM, Taiwan's Evergreen Marine, South Korean No. 2 Hyundai Merchant Marine and some Japanese peers are also keen to put the case behind them.

"The companies are in preliminary discussions with the European Commission now," said one of the sources who declined to be named because there is no final decision yet.

The people said the companies may offer concessions to allay competition concerns under the Commission's commitment procedure which means no finding of infringement and no fine. The Commission is likely to seek feedback from third parties before accepting them.

AP Moller-Maersk spokesman and world No. 5 Hapag Lloyd declined to comment. CMA CGM also declined to comment. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) could not immediately be reached for comment. The Asian companies could be not reached outside of office hours.

Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, declined to comment.

AP Moller-Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, Japan's largest container shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Korean No. 1 Hanjin Shipping, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Evergreen Marine and Hapag Lloyd confirmed the EU investigation last year.

Sources told Reuters that China Shipping Container Lines, COSCO, Mitsui OSK Lines, OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line), United Arab Shipping Co and Israeli company ZIM Integrated Shipping Ltd are also in the EU probe.

BY FOO YUN CHEE (C) Reuters 2014.