February 20, 2008 / 2:50 AM / 11 years ago

Hershey says cooperating with pricing probes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chocolate maker Hershey Co (HSY.N) is cooperating with government probes, including a U.S. federal inquiry, in connection with its pricing practices, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

Hershey is the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Canadian Competition Bureau and has received a request for information from the European Commission, it said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an inquiry, the company said.

“Government regulators are investigating alleged pricing practices by members of the confectionery industries in certain jurisdictions,” it said. “We are cooperating fully with all relevant authorities.”

Hershey said it was also party to about 50 civil antitrust suits in the United States and three in Canada, which allege conspiracies in restraint of trade and challenge the pricing or purchasing practices of the company.

It said it intends to defend the lawsuits vigorously.

The company said the allegations could harm its reputation and could potentially lead to subsequent litigation or government action, including payment of fines or damages.

But it added that while it could not predict the final outcome, “they should not have a material adverse effect on the financial position, liquidity or results of operations of the company.”

A Hershey representative could not be reached immediately for further comment.

The company said several other chocolate confectionery companies were also the subject of these inquiries.

In November, Canadian authorities launched probes into price fixing at the Canadian units of major chocolate makers Mars Inc., Nestle SA NESN.VX, Cadbury Schweppes Plc CBRY.L, Hershey and Mars Inc.

In December, Mars said it had been contacted by the antitrust division of the U.S. justice department regarding their inquiry concerning pricing practices in the U.S. chocolate confectionery industry.

Reporting by Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Gary Hill

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