SHANGHAI China on Friday launched an anti-dumping investigation into makers of blood dialysis equipment in the European Union and Japan, including market leader Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) AG & Co KGaA, challenging the international firms who currently dominate the global and Chinese markets.
China will examine any negative impact on Chinese rivals, the country's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement posted on its website on Friday.
The investigation is the latest in a string of trade issues involving China where companies in the healthcare sector have come under increased scrutiny over the last year over pricing and allegations of corruption in China's markets.
FMC, which controls close to half of the Chinese market for blood dialysis machines, is part of the anti-dumping investigation, a company spokesman said. China was Fresenius's second-largest market for dialysis products last year.
FMC believes that it has acted correctly and has not broken any laws, the spokesman said.
Foreign companies dominate the dialysis market in China with around three quarters of the devices used in the country in 2012 imported, according to a 2013 report from consultancy Research in China, with the United States, Europe and Japan the major sources of supply.
Kidney disease is a growing problem in China due to the country's ageing population and the country already has around 119.5 million patients with chronic kidney disease, according to a 2012 paper in The Lancet medical journal.
A smaller number of patients with severe forms of disease may require dialysis.
The market investigation could help local firms break the hold of larger international rivals over the country's dialysis market, Chinese companies in the sector said.
The biggest foreign companies are Germany's Fresenius, which has 34 percent of the global market through its listed-subsidiary FMC, according to the firm's 2013 financial report. U.S. firm Baxter International Inc, which owns Sweden-based dialysis kit maker Gambro, has a share of around 30 percent.
Baxter officials did not respond to phone and emailed requests for comment.
"We have not yet heard the news about anti-dumping probes. But 60 to 70 percent of the market is dominated by foreign companies. If it's true, I'm sure we would benefit from the policy," said an official surnamed Zhu at Jihua Medical Apparatus and Instruments Co Ltd.
She said the firm was the "number one" Chinese firm by sales in the country's dialysis equipment market.
A spokesman for another Chinese company, Guangdong Biolight Meditech Co Ltd, said that "everyone in the industry would be applauding the move", because local firms struggled to compete against the international firms.
Japanese firms, including Nikkiso Co Ltd and Nipro Corp, are the closest rivals to their U.S. and European counterparts. Officials at the two Japanese companies declined to comment on the investigation.
Medical devices are not the only area where China has been cracking down on imports. The country also began levying earlier this month an anti-dumping tax on a chemical used in insect repellent and refrigerants that is imported from the European Union and the United States.
(Additional reporting by Frank Siebelt in FRANKFURT, Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Kazunori Takada, Matt Driskill and Greg Mahlich)