30 July 2019
Key points of interest include the following:
The impact of US-China relations on the merger review process continues to be a concern to many, although the statistics show a mixed picture. In terms of absolute numbers, last quarter saw the fourth consecutive fall in the number of cases in China – 84 deals, down from a high of 126 in Q3 2018 and lower than the same quarter last year. However, in terms of outcome, intervention remains the exception with all 84 cases last quarter cleared unconditionally, most of them under the simple case procedure.
On the enforcement side, the caseload is beginning to pick up with fines imposed on Chang'an Ford for RPM; Eastman for exclusive dealing; and in two smaller cases on local suppliers of concrete and vehicle inspection services for market sharing and price fixing respectively. In addition, two other firms, China Telecom and Ericsson announced they were currently under investigation by SAMR. In a separate development, SAMR published three new regulations – these are similar to the drafts published earlier this year, but an earlier proposal to create a safe harbour for some types of agreement has been dropped.
Outside mainland China, there have been significant developments in Hong Kong where the Competition Tribunal has backed the Commission in the first two cases brought under the Competition Ordinance and has confirmed that the higher criminal standard of proof applies. Both cases are now under appeal and the Commission has since brought its fourth case to the Tribunal and the third to concern renovation works on a public housing estate. In Japan, an amendment to the Antimonopoly Law was passed which would introduce a limited form of client-attorney privilege in Japan for the first time. Meanwhile, the JFTC has continued its focus on e-commerce with dawn raids of hotel booking sites and a paper on options regarding the regulation of platform operators. In Australia, the ACCC blocked the telecoms merger of fixed network operator TPG and mobile operator Vodafone and the Philippines introduced a fast track merger procedure, promising a 15 working day review period for less complex cases.
Antitrust in China and across the region: Quarterly Update April to June 2019