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EU probes ball bearings industry

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(BRUSSELS) - European anti-trust authorities launched surprise inspections Tuesday in companies that produce ball bearings for the automotive industry in several European Union states.

"The (European) Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices," the EU's competition watchdog said in a statement.

The commission did not reveal the name or location of the companies that were inspected, but industry leader SFK of Sweden revealed that its facilities in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Schweinfurt, Germany, were visited by inspectors.

The EU officials were gathering information "about possible anti-competitive behaviors among certain bearing manufacturers," SFK said.

"SKF has a strict Code of Conduct which prohibits anti-competitive behaviours and is cooperating fully with the investigation," the company said.

The commission said the aim of the investigation is to "clarify the facts concerning the possible participation by the producers of bearings in agreements and/or concerted practices" and establish if EU rules were broken.

The EU's executive arm stressed that such inspections are preliminary steps into suspected anti-competitive practices and "does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour."

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