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Japan Launches Trade Probe of LCD Makers

Japan's trade watchdog is investigating Sharp, NEC, South Korea's LG.Philips LCD and other liquid crystal display manufacturers for allegedly agreeing to cut output to curb falls in panel prices, officials said Tuesday.

The Fair Trade Commission sent notices last week telling "several" LCD manufacturers selling products in Japan that they face probes over alleged anti-monopoly law violations, said commission spokesman Akinori Yamada without elaborating.

Sharp Corp., the country's top maker of LCD panels, said Tuesday it had received letters from trade watchdogs in both Japan and the U.S. asking for the company to cooperate with an investigation into liquid crystal display sales practices.

Sharp's U.S. subsidiary was informed of a possible investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 8, while the company's Japan headquarters received similar notice from Japan's Fair Trade Commission on Dec. 9, according to Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama.

Sharp believes its business practices are fair and is "surprised" by the notice from authorities, but is prepared to cooperate with the probe, Nakayama said.

Japanese maker NEC Corp. also said Tuesday its LCD operations face an investigation.

On Monday, South Korean maker LG.Philips LCD said competition authorities in the U.S., Korea and Japan are investigating it for alleged anticompetitive practices in the LCD market.

In a statement, the company said it received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday. The company also said officials from the Fair Trade Commission in South Korea visited its headquarters while the Japanese Fair Trade Commission issued a notice to its offices in Tokyo.

"LG.Philips LCD takes this matter very seriously and will cooperate fully with regulatory authorities," the company said in the statement. "While these investigations continue, LG.Philips LCD is committed to running its business as usual, supplying its global customer base."

It was not immediately clear which other companies faced investigations.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Tuesday it has not been contacted by the Fair Trade Commission regarding the company's LCD business.

Shares of LG.Philips LCD, the world's second-biggest maker of the displays used in flat panel televisions and personal computers, declined 4.3 percent to 25,850 won ($28) after plunging as much as 7.6 percent.

Its rival Samsung Electronics Co., the world's biggest manufacturer of LCDs, fell by far less, ending 0.7 percent lower at 600,000 won ($650).

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