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EU Set to Fine Samsung Elec, Hynix, Infineon: Report

Nine memory chip makers, including Samsung Electronics, Infineon and Hynix Semiconductor, are set to be fined by EU regulators this week on charges of illegally fixing prices.

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter said the fines will be the first case under the European Commission's new settlement procedure introduced in July 2008 in which companies admit taking part in a cartel in return for a 10 percent cut in fines.

Other companies set to be fined are Elpida Memory, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya Technology. Micron Technologyreceived immunity for blowing the whistle on the cartel and will not be fined for its involvement, one of the two people said.

This was confirmed by another source with direct knowledge of the matter. Samsung Electronics and Hynix are the world's largest and second-largest memory chip makers respectively.

"A decision on fines is expected on Wednesday," one of the sources said. They said the total fine may be up to 300 million euros ($381 million) and could have been higher without the settlement procedure.

The Commission declined to comment.

Competition Commission Joaquin Almunia will hold a press conference on the issue on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

South Korean and U.S. antitrust regulators ended their investigation of the flash memory industry last year, saying there was no evidence of a pricing cartel.

The Commission, the EU antitrust watchdog, has championed the new procedure as a more effective method to deter violations and a speedier decision-making process. The EU executive can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaking EU laws.

Infineon said last December the Commission had opened formal proceedings against it on suspicion of anti-competitive behaviour in the European market for DRAM chips, used in personal computers, printers, mobile phones and game consoles.

South Korean regulators in 2007 dropped an investigation into suspected price-fixing by Samsung Electronics, Micron, Hynix and Infineon.

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