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China fines tech giants over anti-monopoly violations

The enterprises included Alibaba, Baidu and JD.com. Source: HR Asia

BEIJING: China’s market regulator said it was fining companies for failing to declare 43 deals that date as far back as 2012 to authorities, saying that they violated anti-monopoly legislation.

The enterprises including Alibaba, Baidu and JD.com involved in the cases would be fined 500,000 yuan ($78,000) each, the maximum under China’s 2008 Anti-Monopoly Law. The companies failed to report 43 acquisitions that occurred up to eight years ago under rules on “operating concentration,” according to the State Administration for Market Regulation.

China has been tightening its grip on internet platforms, reversing a once laissez-faire approach and citing the risk of abusing market power to stifle competition, misuse of consumers’ data and violation of consumer rights.

The earliest deal listed was a 2012 acquisition involving Baidu and a partner, and the most recent was the 2021 agreement between Baidu and Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holdings to create a new-energy vehicle company.

Other companies fined in the latest round of penalties include online retailers JD.com and Suning Ltd and search engine operator Baidu. The acquisitions dating back to 2013 included network technology, mapping and medical technology assets.

Other deals cited by the State Administration of Market Supervision included Alibaba’s 2014 acquisition of Chinese digital mapping and navigation firm AutoNavi and its 2018 purchase of a 44% stake in Ele.me to become the food delivery service’s largest shareholder.

The deals, however, did not have the effect of eliminating or restricting competition, the regulator said. The companies “failed to declare illegal implementation of operating concentration,” the regulator said on its website.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce company by sales volume, was fined $2.8 billion in April for practices that regulators said suppressed competition. Meituan, a food delivery platform, was fined $534 million on October 8.

In December last year, it fined Alibaba, Tencent-backed China Literature and Shenzhen Hive Box 500,000 yuan each for not reporting past deals properly for antitrust reviews, the first time it had ever done so.

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