UPDATE 3-EU charges DHL, UPS, Panalpina over freight cartel

Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:26pm EST

* DHL Global Forwarding has immunity from prosecution, fine

* Panalpina says may suffer penalties; shares down 4.3 pct

* UPS, Kuehne & Nagel, DSV confirm receiving EU charges

* EU Commission can levy fines up to 10 pct of global sales

(Adds UPS comments)

By Bate Felix

BRUSSELS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Logistics companies DHL (DPWGn.DE), UPS (UPS.N), Panalpina (PWTN.S), Kuehne & Nagel (KNIN.VX) and DSV UDSV.CO have been charged by the European Commission with illegally fixing prices for air freight forwarding.

The case concerns suspected collusion on surcharges, the European Union's competition watchdog said on Wednesday without identifying the companies.

Freight forwarding firms organise the transport of goods, customs clearance, warehousing and ground services for companies, exporters, importers and individuals.

A spokesman for United Parcel Services Inc, the world's largest package delivery service, said it had received a charge sheet from EU regulators and would examine the findings. [ID:nWEN0036]

Deutsche Post DHL, Europe's biggest mail and express delivery company, said its global forwarding unit had also received a so-called "statement of objections", a charge sheet in which the Commission lists suspected violations. [ID:nWEB9330]

The German company said in a statement that it had been granted immunity from prosecution and fines by the Commission, conditional upon its continued cooperation with the regulator. The EU executive can fine companies up to 10 percent of annual turnover if it concludes that they broke EU rules.

The Commission operates a leniency policy whereby companies that provide information about a cartel in which they participated might receive full or partial immunity from fines.

The watchdog also offers immunity to the first company to inform it of cartel activity.

Swiss logistics groups Panalpina (PWTN.S) and Kuehne & Nagel (KNIN.VX) also confirmed receiving the charge sheet.

The proceedings may "result in material penalties being imposed on Panalpina entities", Panalpina said in a statement. [ID:nLDE6190N0]

Danish transport company DSV (DSV.CO) said the Commission document concerned subsidiary ABX Logistics Air & Sea (France) SAS and related to activities from March 19, 2003 to Aug. 19, 2004. [ID:nDKT004850]

A Commission statement said the infringements related to services from Britain to outside the 30-country European Economic Area (EEA), from the EEA to the United States, from China to the EEA and from southern China/Hong Kong to the EEA.

Deutsche Post shares closed 0.5 percent higher, Panalpina was down 5.1 percent, Kuehne & Nagel ended 0.9 percent lower and DSV was 0.9 percent higher. The DJ Stoxx industrial groups and services index .SXNP ended 0.5 percent higher. (Additional reporting by Catherine Bosley in Zurich, Michael Shields in Frankfurt, John Acher in Copenhagen; writing by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Dale Hudson and Louise Heavens)

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