December 19, 2017 / 6:31 AM / a year ago

Nikkei falls as Maglev contract scandal takes toll on construction stocks

TOKYO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks eased on Tuesday in choppy trade as construction shares extended a punishing sell-off as some of the firms were embroiled in a bid-rigging scandal.

The Nikkei ended 0.2 percent lower at 22,868.00 after opening up 0.3 percent.

The construction sector slipped 1.7 percent and was the worst performer on the board, after Tokyo prosecutors raided Japanese construction companies on suspicion of antitrust breaches related to $80 billion worth of magnetic levitation (maglev) train line projects.

Taisei Corp, one of the so-called “big four” group of Japanese construction firms involved in the maglev project, was the latest to be raided. Its shares tumbled 6.3 percent.

Peers Shimizu Corp and Kajima Corp were raided on Monday also on suspicion of antitrust breaches related to the projects. Obayashi Corp is already under investigation for suspected bid-rigging over maglev-related contracts. Shimizu dropped 2.8 percent, Kajima shed 5.2 percent, while Obayashi declined 1.3 percent. While the scope of the probe has broadened the scale of the suspected wrongdoing remained unknown and prosecutors declined to comment.

Brokerage stocks outperformed, with Nomura Holdings gaining 1.0 percent and Daiwa Securities rising 1.5 percent.

The broader Topix shed 0.2 percent to 1,815.18. (Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa)

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