* Company declines to elaborate on nature of investigation
* Antitrust officials interviewed execs, took PCs - media
By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Aug 5 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
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
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
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
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
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)