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unileverBEIJING: Consumer products giant Unilever has raised the prices of some household items in south China, state media said Wednesday, only weeks after the company was fined for announcing planned price hikes.

Retailers in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province received a notice Tuesday announcing price rises for shampoo and body wash from two brands owned by the Anglo-Dutch firm, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

Supermarkets selling the products would raise their prices about 10 percent, while department stores would hike prices by more than five percent, the report, citing unnamed managers at the outlets, said.

On May 6, Chinese authorities slapped a two million yuan ($308,000) fine on Unilever after concluding the company "illegally disseminated news of price hikes" and sparked the panic-buying of shampoo and detergents in March.

The company declined to comment when contacted by AFP on Wednesday.

The fine by the National Development and Reform Commission -- China's powerful economic planning agency -- was seen as a warning to other companies and highlights the growing anxiety in Beijing about soaring costs.

The country's consumer inflation, which has a history of triggering social unrest, remained stubbornly high at 5.3 percent in April after hitting 5.4 percent in March, the highest level since July 2008.

The central bank has responded to growing price pressures by raising interest rates four times since October and repeatedly increasing the amount of money banks must keep in reserve -- effectively cutting their lending power.

Authorities have also intervened directly in the market, warning a number of companies not to raise prices as authorities crack down on hoarding and offer subsidies to the poor.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011

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