UPDATE 1-EU fines freight forwarding cartel 169 mln euros

Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:21am EDT

* Kuehne & Nagel has largest fine of 53.67 mln euros

* 14 companies involved in cartel, including Panalpina, UPS

* No fine for whistleblower Deutsche Post

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS, March 28 (Reuters) - Thirteen logistics firms, including UPS, Panalpina and Expeditors , were fined a total 169 million euros ($225 million) by the European Commission on Wednesday for cartel activities.

Deutsche Post unit DHL Global Forwarding, which took part in the collusion but alerted the regulator, escaped a financial penalty, confirming a Reuters story on Tuesday.

The European Commission said the companies fixed prices in the air freight forwarding business in four cartels between 2002 and 2007, identifying themselves in their secret talks with code names such as "asparagus" and "baby courgettes".

"In times of crisis, it is all the more important to stamp out the hidden tax that cartels impose on our economy. These cartels affected individuals and companies shipping goods on important trade lanes," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

"Many European exporters and consumers of imported goods may have been harmed as a result," he said.

The largest fine was for Switzerland's Kuehne & Nagel , which was charged 53.67 million euros. The company said it may challenge the penalty.

Panalpina received the second-biggest fine of 46.48 million euros and said it was would analyse the decision before deciding on its next move. The third-biggest penalty of 34.94 million euros was for Deutsche Bahn's logistics unit Schenker AG.

UPS was fined 9.76 million euros. UPS spokesman Norman Black said the company would review the EU decision before deciding whether to challenge it.

Expeditors was fined 4.14 million euros, Nippon Express (China) 812,000 euros, Kuwaiti firm Agility 4.96 million euros, UTi 3.07 million euros and Denmark's DSV Air & Sea SAS 379,000 euros.

CEVA/EGL received a 3.03 million euro penalty and Germany's Hellmann Worldwide Logistics 4.28 million euros.