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New Zealand regulator alleges livestock firms' price fixing

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's competition regulator said on Monday it had started legal action against two livestock companies and five individuals for price fixing over the introduction of a national animal identity tracing scheme thr...

Cattle

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand's competition regulator said on Monday it had started legal action against two livestock companies and five individuals for price fixing over the introduction of a national animal identity tracing scheme three years ago.

The Commerce Commission said it was alleging that PGG Wrightson Ltd, the local unit of Australia's Elders Ltd , and five current or former employees of the companies, agreed to fix prices to tag animals and raise associated fees when the scheme was introduced.

PGG Wrightson and Elders were not immediately available for comment.

PGG Wrightson said last month it was facing a possible fine which would be "significant but not materially price sensitive."

PGG Wrightson, half owned by China's Agria, is New Zealand's largest listed agribusiness company and has forecast a rise in operating earnings for the year to June 30. It last traded up 2.2 percent.

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A mandatory animal identification scheme was set up in 2012 to track electronically all cattle and deer from farm to processing plant for animal health and food safety reasons.

The regulator says it also is investigating the actions of a third company Rural Livestock.

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