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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 05:43 GMT

Business: The Company File

Sega raided in price fix probe

Dreamcast has been a sales success for Sega

Computer games giant Sega has had its offices raided by Japanese officials investigating allegations that it has been fixing the sales price of its Dreamcast console.

The company, enjoying a resurgence in fortunes since the launch of the new console, admitted on Thursday that it had been raided by Japan's anti-trust watchdog.

The raid was reportedly to seek evidence of Sega fixing the shop prices of its consoles.

The move is the latest in a series of high profile actions by fair trade officials probing allegations of anti-competitive behaviour across the world.

It means that Sega joins a band of companies which includes Coca-Cola, Microsoft and most major motor manufacturers in the UK.

"It is true that we have been inspected," a Sega spokesman said.

"But we cannot make an official comment on the allegations yet."

The Fair Trade Commission searched about 30 Sega premises on Wednesday, but the focus was on Sega's headquarters in Tokyo and its sales affiliate Segamuse, the spokesman said.

Console competitors

"We will co-operate with the investigation," he added.

Sega and the affiliate allegedly pressured retailers not to sell Dreamcast video game consoles for less than the recommended retail price of 19,900 yen (£117, $190).

Sega has sold about 1.5 million Dreamcasts in Japan since its launch in November last year.

The original recommended retail price of 29,800 yen was dropped in June.

The console was launched last month in the UK with a price tag of £199, and in the US earlier this year, with successful sales in both.

There is great competition between the Dreamcast and rival consoles from Sony and Nintendo.

Each new console tends to be more powerful than those already on the market and registers strong sales until one of the rivals brings out a new machine which out-performs it.

Sega has regained some of its earlier pre-eminence with the Dreamcast launch, but Sony's PlayStation remains by far and away the market leader, with a new version due to hit the market next year.

News of the raids saw Sega shares fall 5% in trading on the Japanese stock market.

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