China on Monday fined seven foreign shippers including three Japanese firms a combined 407 million yuan ($63 million) for price-fixing in the latest case involving government scrutiny of overseas companies.
China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) -- the top state planner and one of several agencies tasked with oversight of monopoly cases -- said in a statement the Japanese firms fined were "K" Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha), Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Eastern Car Liner.
Another Japanese shipping firm, NYK Line, was implicated but escaped a fine by cooperating, it said.
The NDRC levied the biggest individual fine of 284 million yuan on South Korea's EUKOR Car Carriers while also punishing two Chilean companies and a Swedish-Norwegian venture.
The commission accused the companies of mutually agreeing to raise shipping costs and using unfair means to set prices -- mainly on routes linking China with North America, South America and Europe.
Their actions violated China’s anti-monopoly law and "hurt the interests" of its importers and exporters, it said.
The NDRC said the companies had already acknowledged responsibility and apologised.
The case follows sweeping investigations into foreign firms in China in sectors ranging from technology to autos.
US mobile chip titan Qualcomm said in February that it would pay nearly a billion dollars to end a long-running antitrust probe in China, in perhaps the biggest fine ever levied by Beijing in such a case.
In August last year the Chinese government levied a combined 1.24 billion yuan fine on 12 Japanese auto parts firms for price-fixing.