International

  • A move towards economic integration among ASEAN member states could be either a boon or a bane for established antitrust jurisdictions, like Singapore and Indonesia, competition lawyers told PaRR. While interaction with new ASEAN regulators will help them learn of infringement conduct sooner, countries with no competition law regime will be under pressure to adopt legislation, effectively pushing the relatively mature jurisdictions to explore new areas of enforcement, and to investigate and prosecute more challenging cases.

Australia

  • In a closely-watched decision, competition regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a statement of issues on Brookfield Infrastructure’s proposed acquisition of Asciano. It is concerned that vertical integration will substantially reduce competition in above rail haulage services in Western Australia and Queensland. While the watchdog noted access regimes were in place for the businesses involved, it said they did not address potential antitrust issues from vertical integration. The regulator is accepting feedback until 4 November, and expects to announce a final decision on 17 December.
  • Telstra’s  CEO has said the antitrust agency’s recent pricing decisions will cost the telco up to AUD 430m (USD 314m). In particular, Andy Penn was outraged by its ruling two weeks ago to slash Telstra’s copper network wholesale access prices by 9.4%, which, he warned, would cost the company AUD 80m in fiscal 2016. Penn said this violated the fixed pricing principles of the regulator. ACCC Chairman Rod Sims promptly rebutted his claims, saying the telco “played the regulatory game hard.” Telstra is considering its appeal options. 
  • The competition agency has quashed plans for an Uber-like upstart, proposing to deny authorization for local and international taxi networks and Australian payment system Cabcharge to jointly launch a smartphone taxi booking app. It said the app would come at too big a cost to competition, with the networks involved already representing more than half of all taxis in Australia and a dominant share in metropolitan areas. The regulator is accepting feedback before making a final decision in November or December. ihail said it would now reassess its model to address the regulator’s concerns.

China

  • The 11th EU-China Competition Week is expected to be held in Shanghai this week, the second time for the closed-door event this year. Officials and case handlers from Chinese and European antitrust authorities as well as Chinese competition experts will discuss a wide variety of topics, including settlements; online platform structures and online restraints; coordination and information exchange; and hub and spoke agreements in atypical cartels.
  • The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has sought feedback from legal experts and practitioners on revisions made to two draft regulations, the Review Measures and the Notification Measures, PaRR has learned. The ministry will be accepting feedback until around 23 October. In the revised draft of the Notification Measures, 34 new articles concerning the definition of control, consultation procedures, simple case notification and withdrawal have been added, increasing the article count to 52 from 18.
  • MOFCOM expedited its simplified merger reviews in the third quarter, clearing most cases within the 30-day first phase, as requested by the head of its antitrust division, according to data compiled by this news service. A total of 60 of the 79 mergers that MOFCOMunconditionally cleared in the quarter were simple cases, and the agency took an average of 28.1 days to approve them. 
  • Nokia (HEL:NOKIA) is in remedy talks with MOFCOM regarding its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU). The regulatory review appears to be inching towards the final stages, with resolution and clearance expected within the next few weeks. In a move considered key to obtaining approval in China, Nokia agreed in August to give China Huaxin a stake in a new joint venture combining its telecoms infrastructure business in the country with Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell.
  • A merger filing by Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) concerning its proposed acquisition of Altera (NASDAQ: ALTR) has been formally accepted byMOFCOM for review, two people briefed said. It is still unclear when the review was formally initiated, but the case appears to be in its early stages. The sentiment in MOFCOM appears to indicate a smooth process for the deal which has already been approved in other jurisdictions.
  • The Ministry of Transport’s (MOT) recent draft regulation for online ride-hailing services has drawn public outcry over its tough line against private cars’ participation. In particular, a rule mandating that companies offering this service “shall not hold a dominant market position” has been criticized. The Price Supervision and Anti-monopoly Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has yet to review the draft, it is understood.
  • The bureau recently held a second meeting to consult with auto industry participants on drafting antitrust guidelines for the sector. Meanwhile, government agencies led by the MOT will soon meet with carmakers to discuss the enforcement of a new rule requiring them to disclose repair and maintenance technical know-how.
  • Seven major ocean shippers have offered to reduce a variety of fees in a submission to the NDRC, which had called for a revision in line with market changes. The companies are Kawasaki Kisen KaishaHanjin ShippingHyundai Merchant MarineEvergreen Marine,Wan Hai LinesYangming Marine Transport and China Shipping Container Lines. The NDRC plans to monitor those prices closely. • MOFCOM has signed a merger review cooperation pact with the European Commission’s DG competition. The arrangement is aimed at boosting efficiency of investigations and making the process easier for companies as well as facilitating communication on issues such as defining relevant markets. Meanwhile, the NDRC and the Japanese antitrust regulator also plan to share information and carry out simultaneous onsite inspections against cartels in both countries.
  • The Anhui Administration for Industry and Commerce has fined local technology firm Sunyard System Engineering, whose main businesses include financial software development and security equipment, CNY 200,000 (USD 31,480) for allegedly failing to cooperate with the provincial regulator’s antitrust investigation. 

Hong Kong

  • The antitrust authority may propose reduced fines for runners-up under the city’s leniency program, but cannot guarantee they will be imposed, Stanley Wong, chief executive officer of the Competition Commission, has said. The watchdog’s draft leniency policy, issued on 23 September, has raised a number of concerns within the legal fraternity, including the need for clarity on what runners-up can expect.
  • Meanwhile the competition authority will lay emphasis on hard-core cartels in its enforcement priority document, Wong told PaRR in an exclusive interview. The enforcement policy will be out by the time the consultation on the leniency policy ends on 23 October, overlapping by a day or two, he added.  

India

  • In a first for the country, two lawyers will argue a consolidated appeal before the Competition Appellate Tribunal in a 2012 cartel case involving 10 cement manufacturers and the industry lobby group. The appeal was filed with the tribunal in November 2012 following the Competition Commission of India’s decision to impose a cumulative fine of INR 63.07bn (USD 974m) on the entities. The matter will now be heard on 27 October by COMPAT’s two-member bench, comprising chair Justice G S Singhvi and recently appointed member RajivKher.
  • New Delhi may ease several restrictive conditions related to foreign investment in a bid to make the most of the global community’s current interest in the country. Many norms, such as non-compete clauses, for overseas investors will likely be scrapped to promote the country as an attractive investment destination. However, corruption continues to be the biggest stumbling block in the way of foreign companies doing business in India, a survey has revealed.
  • Microsoft’s proposal to introduce low-cost internet connectivity in the country’s rural areas has stoked concerns that the US software giant may, in the process, get exclusive or free access to low-frequency airwaves. Although local telcos are not loath to the company entering the sector, they say the airwaves are an important national asset and must, therefore, be auctioned off.

Indonesia

  • The Jakarta Corruption Court is scheduled to hand down its verdict on former Pertamina director Suroso Atmomartoyo today (19 October), according to an antigraft prosecutor involved in this case. Atmomartoyo, a former director at the state-owned oil giant, is on trial for allegedly receiving bribes from US-based additive manufacturer Innospec and its domestic agent Soegih Interjaya to prolong a contract with Pertamina in 2004-05. Prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) are reportedly demanding a seven-year jail sentence along with an IDR 250m (USD 18,663) fine if Atmomartoyo is found guilty.
  • Badrodin Haiti, chief of National Police, has backed the cartel enforcement efforts of the antitrust regulator (KPPU). KPPU chair SyarkawiRauf and his team met Haiti in Jakarta last week and requested the police to support an amendment that would raise the ceiling on antitrust fines to up to IDR 1tn.

Japan

  • The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) is unlikely to rescind an administrative order against US semiconductor biggie Qualcomm, a former senior JFTC official told this news service. In 2009, the regulator issued a cease-and-desist order against the California-based company for allegedly trading on restrictive terms and effectively preventing businesses from asserting their own intellectual property rights. Qualcomm appealed the order in 2010.

New Zealand

  • A proposed acquisition of Australasian telecoms company M2 Group [ASX: MTU] by Vocus [ASX: VOC] is expected to raise vertical integration issues in New Zealand, although an independent competition lawyer and an industry source believe that antitrust approval is still likely. Vocus submitted an application to the New Zealand Commerce Commission on 9 October. The deal isn’t expected to cause a noteworthy reduction in competition in the relevant market because the two companies operate different businesses in the country.
  • The government has committed in principle to pushing forward legislation on criminalizing cartel conduct, introduced in parliament four years ago, and will decide next month whether to take submissions relating to monopoly power provisions. The ministry is reviewing certain provisions to determine if other measures could more accurately identify scenarios in which firms might abuse market power, undermine competition, productivity or innovation.

Pakistan

  • In a scathing report, the national auditor has accused the Competition Commission of Pakistan of corruption, negligence, incompetence and nepotism. The 2014-15 report, which has yet to be presented to lawmakers, has also accused Islamabad of failing to rein in private cartels that fleeced the unsuspecting general public.

South Korea

  • The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has scheduled a hearing for 21 October to decide on the severity of penalties on tech companyOracle for alleged dominance abuses. Antitrust chief Jae-chan Jung will also attend the hearing. The KFTC, which is close to finishing its final review report, announced the investigation in April amid allegations that the US company was bundling maintenance service products with its core product database management system.
  • The KFTC also plans to step up monitoring of unfair trading practices -- especially subcontract payment issues -- in the automobile industry, chair Jung has said. Hyundai MotorKia MotorsHyundai Mobis and Ssangyong Motor have decided to monitor whether their primary subcontractors pay fees properly to the secondary and tertiary peers. Jung said the regulator would continuously review and attract voluntary participation from automobile firms to prevent unfair trading practices.

Taiwan

  • The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) is expected to apply a problem-free review process for FedEx Corp’s [NYSE: FDX] agreed EUR 8-per-share acquisition of TNT Express [AMS: TNTE], according to a source close to the regulator. The TFTC officially kicked off its review on 5 October and the process can last up to 90 days. In the meantime, the watchdog has slapped a penalty of TWD 500,000 (USD 15,384) on Taiwan Taxi for its failure to notify its recent acquisitions of two local express mail services for merger reviews.
  • The TFTC has begun a new probe of local infant formula distributors for suspected price fixing, focusing on Wyeth Nutrition products, PaRR has learned. The action was initiated in August after local media reported that prices of Wyeth’s S26 series baby milk powder products rose as much as 10%. A previous investigation into milk powder price hikes, involving many foreign brands, distributors and various products, had to be closed for insufficient evidence.

Thailand

  • Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chair Meechai Ruchupan is mulling the possibility of establishing a new graft-prevention agency, and will consult with state agencies on measures to tackle rampant corruption. The 21-member CDC was appointed earlier this month to draft a new constitution after the now-defunct National Reform Council rejected the draft proposed by the previous committee in September.