U.S. clears Maersk, others in antitrust probe 

Maersk Line

Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) have been cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) of any wrongdoing in an antitrust investigation. 

The two companies, which confirmed this on Tuesday, were among several companies including Germany’s Hapag Lloyd, ordered to testify in an antitrust investigation that began in 2017 over practices in the shipping industry. 

Container companies, which transport everything from TVs to bananas, have tried to reduce costs through alliances to pool sailing schedules and port calls. 

Switzerland based MSC, which is the world second largest container line, said it had been informed by the DoJ that the department had closed its investigation into MSC and the global container shipping industry without bringing charges or imposing penalties.

“This is an important decision where the global container shipping industry has, once again, been fully investigated and exonerated,” the company said in its statement on Tuesday.

Danish A.P. Moller Maersk confirmed that the DoJ had closed its investigation and had released Maersk from any obligations under the Grand Jury subpoenas issued in March 2017.

Camilla Jain Holtse, A.P. Moller Maersk’s head of competition law and policy, said the company had provided full cooperation throughout the investigation.

The investigation could have resulted in large fines at a time when the container sector is struggling with slowing global economic growth.

Last week Maersk warned that trade headwinds would slow container demand growth this year, sending its shares down 10 percent. The stock was down 2.3 percent at 1343 GMT on Tuesday and Hapag Lloyd was down 2.8 percent.

The U.S. investigation followed separate cases in other jurisdictions in recent years.

In 2016 European Union antitrust regulators accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices to stave off possible fines.

Hapag Lloyd is yet to speak on the outcome of the U.S. probe. 

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