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Panasonic, Sanyo, LG Chem in price-fixing plea deals: U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp <6752.T>, its subsidiary Sanyo Electric Co Ltd and LG Chem Ltd <051910.KS> agreed to plead guilty to separate price-fixing allegations involving automotive parts and notebook computer battery cells, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.

Panasonic agreed to pay about a $45.8 million criminal fine, Sanyo agreed to pay $10.7 million and LG Chem $1.1 million, the department said in a statement.

Japan's Panasonic agreed to plead guilty to price-fixing on turn, wiper and other switches and steering angle sensors sold to Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, among others, and high intensity discharge ballasts sold to Honda Motor Co Ltd <7267.T>, Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T> and Nissan Motor Co Ltd <7201.T>.

Panasonic will plead guilty to three felony counts in connection with the conspiracy.

Sanyo and LG Chem pleaded guilty to fixing prices of cylindrical lithium ion battery cells used in notebook computers, the department said. They face one count each of price-fixing. The charges were the first in a battery cell investigation.

Ten other companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the auto parts probe. They are Japan's Diamond Electric Manufacturing Co Ltd <6895.T>, Tokai Rika <6995.T>, Autoliv , TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd, Fujikura Ltd <5803.T>, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd <5801.T>, Denso Corp <6902.T>, Yazaki Corp and G.S. Electech.

Fifteen executives either face sentencing or have already been sentenced to jail time and fines.

(Reporting by David Ingram and Diane Bartz; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Grant McCool)

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