UPDATE 2-Daimler's Mercedes-Benz says assisting Chinese authorities in investigation

Tue Aug 5, 2014 7:50am EDT

* Company declines to elaborate on nature of investigation

* Antitrust officials interviewed execs, took PCs - media (Adds background)

By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Daimler AG's luxury brand Mercedes-Benz said it was cooperating with China's anti-monopoly authorities over an investigation into unspecified matters, after Chinese media reported the German carmaker's Shanghai office had been raided.

"We confirm that we are assisting the authorities in their investigation," Mercedes-Benz said in a statement on Tuesday, issued in response to a query from Reuters about reports the office had been visited by officials from the anti-monopoly National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Asked about the nature of the investigation, Beijing-based Mercedes-Benz spokesman Senol Bayrak said the automaker was only confirming that NDRC officials visited the office on Monday as part of an investigation. He declined to elaborate, saying it was "an ongoing matter".

A Daimler spokesman in Germany was not immediately available to comment.

China is intensifying efforts to bring companies into compliance with an anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008, having in recent years taken aim at industries as varied as milk powder and jewellery.

Mercedes-Benz is the latest foreign company to be targeted by Chinese regulators, which have ramped up probes in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics.

Regulators officially named U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc a monopoly last month and are widely expected to levy a heavy fine. Last week, agency investigators raided Microsoft Corp's offices in four Chinese cities as part of an ongoing probe.

Such investigations have led to substantial fines at a number multinational companies, including Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Danone SA.

Mercedes-Benz's Shanghai office is located inside the fourth and fifth floors of a five-story building near Shanghai's Hongqiao airport, which also houses the building's only other tenant, a Mercedes-Benz dealership.

Inside the spacious first-floor dealer showroom Tuesday afternoon, it was business as usual a day after the visit by NDRC officials which local news media described as a "raid." Smiling salespeople were making sales pitches on new cars to customers.

The dealer's receptionists and guards told a Reuters reporter they were unaware of NDRC investigators' visit to the Mercedes-Benz office upstairs on Monday.

A businessman coming out of one of the two elevators with access to the fourth- and fifth-floor Mercedes-Benz office smiled when asked if he was in the office when NDRC officials showed up there on Monday.

"We're fully cooperating with the government," he said. He declined to give his name or title.

A little-known Shanghai publication known as Jie Mian reported on Tuesday that nine officials from the NDRC's anti-trust investigation team sprung a surprise visit at Mercedes-Benz's Shanghai office on Monday morning.

The publication said the team interviewed many senior executives and confiscated computers as part of an investigation into Mercedes-Benz.

Monday's visit to the Mercedes-Benz Shanghai office followed an announcement by the company over the weekend that Mercedes-Benz would lower prices on more than 10,000 spare parts by an average of 15 percent.

The cut followed a sweeping reduction of prices for repair and maintenance services Mercedes-Benz announced last month. (Additional reporting by Gerry Shih in BEIJING; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Mark Potter)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.