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USA: Justice Dept. investigates CRT makers

The US Justice Dept. has subpoenaed records from TV glass makers Techneglas and Corning as part of a wider investigation of the CRT industry, the companies said. The Justice Dept. served subpoenas on …

The US Justice Dept. has subpoenaed records from TV glass makers Techneglas and Corning as part of a wider investigation of the CRT industry, the companies said. The Justice Dept. served subpoenas on Techneglas and Corning in early August 2003 and the companies said they were complying with the request. The investigation is still at an early stage and its exact nature is still unclear. Other CRT manufacturers, which could fall within the remit of the investigation, have not yet been contacted, sources at the companies said. Among major TV tube makers still operating in U.S. are Hitachi, Matsushita, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba. Hitachi shut down direct-view CRT manufacturing in 2002 to focus on projection tubes. “Right now I don“t know a lot of details,” said Joseph Schaeufele, vp-engineering & manufacturing at Techneglas. “They“re investigating certain business practices in the industry. It“s very early and ongoing.” A Justice Dept. spokeswoman declined to comment. A Corning spokesman confirmed that a former joint venture, Corning Asahi Video Glass, had received a subpoena requesting information dating back “several” years. He added that a Corning CRT glass joint venture with Samsung in South Korea is unaffected, at least so far. It was unclear whether the Justice investigation was related to an antidumping complaint filed earlier in 2003 by Five Rivers Mfg. and others asking the International Trade Commission to impose duties on direct-view CRTs imported from China. The investigation could also involve Corning“s recent decision to close the TV glass plant in State College, Pennsylvania, which it operated as a joint venture with Asahi Glass. Corning“s move made Techneglas the sole independent supplier of TV glass in the US. Thomson and Sony produce glass in Circleville, Ohio, and New Stanton, Pennsylvania, respectively, but mainly for internal consumption. Corning sold glass-making equipment from the State College plant to a Chinese tube manufacturer. Meanwhile, Techneglas, in another round of layoffs, cut 100 hourly-paid jobs at its Pittston, Pennsylvania, plant in the third week of August 2003, reducing the work force there to about 900, including 720 hourly-paid employees. Pittston operates 5 lines that largely perform maintenance, Schaeufele said. Earlier in 2003, Techneglas cut 100 salaried positions at a Columbus, Ohio, facility that makes glass face plates using 2 production lines and a single furnace, down from 6 lines and 2 furnaces when Techneglas was at its peak with 3,400 employees. Despite recent reductions, Techneglas has hired 25-30 workers for glass finishing operation in Columbus, Schaeufele said. “We were staffed to do some major projects, but we“re not going to have any of those going down the road,” Schaeufele, said, attributing Techneglas“s troubles to increases in imports of CRTs from foreign competitors. “We“re trying to reorganize internally to better match sales that we have, our customers and their capacities.” Among Techneglas“s major customers is Toshiba. As part of restructuring, Techneglas has also brought in several executives from parent Nippon Electric Glass (NEG) to bring its U.S. plants into line with those it operates in other countries. The arrival of NEG executives coincided with departure of several top Techneglas officials including CEO Timothy Hickey.

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