China price probe may target oil firms, banks


By Kazunori Takada, Reuters

SHANGHAI — China’s powerful price regulator could target the petroleum, telecommunications, banking and auto sectors next in its investigations into violations of the country’s antitrust laws, state media quoted a senior official as saying. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) would look at industries that have an impact on the lives of ordinary Chinese, China Central Television (CCTV) quoted Xu Kunlin, head of the anti-monopoly bureau at the NDRC, as saying on one of its programs. The NDRC has launched nearly 20 pricing-related probes into domestic and foreign firms in the last three years, according to official media reports and research published by law firms. But the scope of its investigations in the world’s second biggest economy have gathered pace in recent months and coincide with criticism in official media about the price of goods such as milk powder, medicine, luxury cars and jewelry.

“When you look at activities around the world, regulators tend to investigate sectors where their investigations can have a direct impact on consumers, and that will look good,” said Sebastien Evrard, Beijing-based partner at law firm Jones Day, which specializes in antitrust law. Last week the NDRC fined six milk powder firms for anti-competitive behaviour. It is also investigating 60 foreign and local pharmaceutical companies over pricing and costs.

Companies in the petroleum, telecommunications, banking and auto sectors were on the NDRC’s radar for future investigations, CCTV’s official blog quoted Xu as saying.