China Invited Foreign Companies to Antitrust Talks Before Fines

China’s commerce ministry invited foreign companies to a meeting about antitrust regulations two weeks before overseas milk powder producers were slapped with record penalties for price fixing.

Tetra Pak Group, which makes packaging for drinks, attended the discussions on July 24 and 25 at a Beijing hotel, company spokesman Chris Huntley said. Qualcomm Inc., a U.S. seller of semiconductors for mobile phones, and other companies were invited to last month’s meeting, according to spokeswoman Christine Trimble.

China fined six dairy companies including Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. and Danone SA a combined 669 million yuan ($109 million) earlier this month for price fixing after they tried to fix minimum resale prices of their products, limiting competition in the industry, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said.

An official of the NDRC, the country’s economic planner, pressured about 30 foreign companies including General Electric Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and Microsoft Corp. to admit antitrust violations at the meeting, Reuters reported yesterday. The official warned the group not to use lawyers to fight against accusations from regulators, Reuters reported, citing two unidentified people and another with direct knowledge of the issue.

Spokesmen for GE and Microsoft declined to comment on the report. Nam Ki Yung, a spokesman for Samsung, said the company has no knowledge of the meeting.

An official in the spokesman’s office for the NDRC who didn’t want to be identified also declined to comment. Phone calls to the Ministry of Commerce’s Beijing-based media office went unanswered. A women at the ministry’s Anti-Monopoly Bureau, who declined to be named, said the bureau only oversees cases of potential monopolies resulting from mergers and acquisitions.

— With assistance by Gregory Turk

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