China is investigating delivery giant
over suspected antitrust practices, the latest move by Beijing to tighten its grip on the country’s powerful tech industry.
China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, on Monday said it had launched a probe into Hong Kong-listed Meituan for suspected monopolistic behaviors, including the practice of “er xuan yi,” or “choose one out of two.” The practice prevents merchants from selling their goods on multiple platforms.
Meituan’s Hong Kong-listed shares were slightly lower on Tuesday morning. They have lost about a third of their value from a record high in mid-February. Just a week ago, the Beijing-based company raised nearly $10 billion from investors by selling stock and convertible bonds, and said it plans to spend heavily on new technologies that can automate deliveries.
Meituan, which acts as an online marketplace for restaurants and other merchants, said it would actively cooperate with the commerce regulator’s investigation and seek to improve its compliance management. It added that its various businesses are currently operating normally.
The investigation comes after dozens of China’s largest technology companies, including Meituan, earlier this month publicly pledged to comply with antimonopoly laws after Beijing blocked the initial public offering of Ant Group Co. and hit tech giant
Meituan had said in its pledge that it won’t adopt unreasonable restrictions to force merchants into exclusivity measures.
The move on Monday also confirmed fears among some investors that Meituan would be the next target after authorities concluded their monthslong probe into Alibaba and appeared set to expand the crackdown beyond the business empire of
China’s best-known entrepreneur.
Meituan is China’s third-most valuable internet firm, behind videogame developer
Tencent Holdings Ltd.
and e-commerce giant Alibaba, with a market value of more than $200 billion. Its shares have tripled in the past 12 months as the pandemic triggered a global demand boom for online products and services.
The “er xuan yi” exclusivity practice has been of central concern for regulators as Beijing seeks to rein in China’s fast-growing internet industry. The SAMR repeatedly highlighted its scrutiny over such practices in the Alibaba probe and earlier this month ordered 34 tech firms to revamp operations, especially with respect to these exclusivity measures.
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Appeared in the April 27, 2021, print edition as ‘Meituan Probed on Antitrust Practices.’