Japan’s antitrust officials searched a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. on suspicion of forming an international cartel to fix prices for cathode-ray tubes for television, an official and media reports said Friday.

MT Picture Display Co., a 100 percent subsidiary of Matsushita, is suspected of fixing prices for CRTs with other manufacturers in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Japanese business daily Nikkei reported Friday.Antitrust officials in Japan, South Korea, the United States and the European Union have begun investigations, the paper said. Other major dailies carried similar reports.Demand for the tubes — used in traditional box TVs — is shrinking amid increasing sales of flat TVs. But global sales of CRTs remain strong due to demand in developing countries and are estimated at $4.43 billion, according to estimates in the Japanese media.Japan’s Fair Trade Commission conducted an on-sight inspection of MT Picture Display Thursday, said Akira Kadota, a spokesman for Matsushita, the Osaka-based maker of Panasonic-brand products.Kadota said he could not comment why the subsidiary was searched, citing ongoing investigation.FTC officials were not immediately available for comment.Nikkei said the companies including South Korea’s Samsung SDI are suspected of forming a cartel around 2005 to keep the price of CRTs from falling, citing unnamed officials.Matsushita’s share was down 2 percent to 2,235 yen at the end of the Friday morning session on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.