ANA, Air New Zealand, Malaysian Air Charged in EU Cargo Probe


Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) — All Nippon Airways Co., Air New Zealand Ltd. and Malaysian Airline System Bhd. became the latest air cargo haulers to be charged with violating European competition rules after a probe into alleged price fixing.

European Union regulators have filed formal accusations, the three airlines said in separate statements today. They join carriers including British Airways Plc that said they faced charges last week.

Tokyo-based ANA said it will examine the findings of the Brussels-based European Commission and respond “in due course.'' Subang, Malaysia-based Malaysian Air said its policy is to comply with “all applicable laws'' and that it will seek legal advice in the case. Auckland-based Air New Zealand put the total number of airlines charged at more than 25.

EU charges against air-freight haulers close a year in which European regulators levied a record 3.3 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in penalties in cartel cases against companies ranging from glassmakers to brewers.

Joe Hennon, a European Commission spokesman, had no immediate comment on today's statements by the three airlines. All the carriers have two months to defend themselves before the commission, the 27-nation EU's executive agency, considers whether to impose fines.

European and U.S. regulators are investigating at least a dozen carriers for possible price fixing of fuel surcharges at their cargo businesses. EU cartel fines typically amount to 2 percent to 3 percent of annual sales, and are capped at 10 percent.

British Airways, Japan Airlines Corp., Air France-KLM Group, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Singapore Airlines Ltd., Air Canada, SAS Group and Cargolux Airlines International SA have said within the past week that they were also charged. Cologne, Germany-based Deutsche Lufthansa AG is working with the commission and has won conditional immunity.

British Airways, Europe's third-largest airline, was fined $300 million by a U.S. court on Aug. 23 after pleading guilty to two criminal counts of conspiracy in setting extra charges on passenger and cargo flights to offset rising fuel expenses. The company was accused of fixing prices on air cargo as early as March 2002 and passenger flights starting in August 2004.