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China to Probe Pricing in Antitrust Drive, Regulator Says

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expanding an anti-corruption drive and cracking down on business practices that have driven up consumer prices. Photographer: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- China will begin to supervise pricing in certain industries and punish companies that break antitrust rules, the nation’s top economic planner said, after crackdowns on makers of products such as baby formula and cars.

The National Development and Reform Commission is seeking to strengthen regulation as it seeks to keep price levels stable, it said in a statement on its website, citing a meeting in Beijing yesterday. No industries were named in the statement.

The planned inspections extend a campaign that has brought investigations of companies including Qualcomm Inc. and record fines on milk producers such as Danone and Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. President Xi Jinping is expanding an anti-corruption drive and cracking down on business practices that have driven up consumer prices.

The NDRC will also “improve pricing subsidy mechanisms, in order to mitigate the impact of rising prices on the low-income population,” it said in yesterday’s statement.

The government in August fined six dairy producers including Mead Johnson, the country’s largest seller of baby formula, a combined 669 million yuan ($109 million) for price fixing, a record penalty for violating anti-monopoly laws. The companies tried to fix minimum resale prices of their products, limiting competition in the industry, authorities said at the time.

Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of chips for smartphones, said Nov. 25 that the NDRC had begun an investigation related to an anti-monopoly law, without giving details. China’s regulators have been “closely” watching the pricing of imported vehicles and those made by joint ventures for at least two years, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Aug, 20, citing an unidentified person from the NDRC’s anti-monopoly department.

The NDRC meeting came two days after China’s leaders ended their annual Central Economic Work Conference. The government will maintain continuity and stability in macroeconomic policies in 2014 and stick to a prudent monetary policy and proactive fiscal policy, China Central Television reported, citing a statement from the conference.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Liza Lin in Shanghai at llin15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net

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