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Carter Holt, Fletcher Building fixed prices for timber in Auckland market, regulator says

Friday 20th December 2013

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Carter Holt Harvey, owned by Graeme Hart's Rank Group, and Fletcher Building, the country's biggest listed company, admitted to the Commerce Commission that they agreed to fix prices for structural timber for some commercial customers in Auckland in late 2012 and early 2013.

The Wellington-based anti-trust regulator today filed proceedings in the High Court against Carter Holt and its manager Dean Dodds and is awaiting a penalty hearing, it said in a statement. They cooperated with the investigation and have agreed to settlements in which they admit their conduct breached the Commerce Act.

Fletcher's distribution arm has been granted immunity after it discovered its involvement in the price fixing earlier this year, told the commission and cooperated with the investigation, the regulator said.

Carter Holt is facing a fine of up to $10 million, or three times the value of any commercial gain resulting from the price fixing, or if that can't be determined, 10 percent of turnover of the interconnected bodies corporate.

Fletcher said the price fixing involved its PlaceMakers stores in Cook Street and Mount Wellington in central Auckland. The price arrangements benefited PlaceMakers' pre-tax earnings by almost $100,000 and the company is compensating affected customers, the Auckland-based company said in a statement.

Fletcher has reviewed pricing conduct in other regions and is confident the issues are limited to Auckland, it said. Those who didn't meet expected standards of behaviour have been or will be held to account, it said, without providing details.

Shares in Fletcher Building fell 0.6 percent to $8.48.

Separately, the antitrust regulator is considering whether to approve a joint venture between USG Corp and Boral for the supply of plasterboard, ceiling tiles and ancillary building products in Australasia, Asia and the Middle East.

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