China's monopoly fine against Audi in the millions, not billions: report

Penalty against German car maker will be 250 million yuan - 1pc of its car sales in Hubei, a respected business publication says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 11:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 6:48pm

China will fine German premium car brand Audi around 250 million yuan (HK$315 million) for violating anti-monopoly laws, the 21st Century Business Herald, an influential business daily, reported on Thursday.

This is a much lower estimated figure than what a source told mainland media a day earlier, of 1.8 billion yuan – what would be the highest such penalty meted out in the country.

Citing an unidentified source which the Century Business Herald described as authoritative, the fine to be imposed on Audi, a unit of Germany’s Volkswagen, is calculated based on a percentage of its car sales last year in the central province of Hubei.

Car distributors in the province are also facing penalties, according to previous reports.

Under the six-year-old anti-monopoly law, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s anti-trust regulator, can impose fines of between 1 and 10 per cent of a company’s revenues for the previous year.

Audi could not immediately be reached for comment.

Audi sold 488,488 cars on the mainland last year at an average price of about 400,000 yuan, generating some 195.4 billion yuan in revenue, according to previous reports.

The NDRC has been investigating the business practices of Audi’s sales arm with dealers in Hubei.

Audi had already said its sales arm – a joint venture with state-owned FAW Group – had violated “part” of the country’s anti-monopoly laws, and that it would accept the penalty.

An array of industries have been coming under the spotlight as China intensifies efforts to bring companies into compliance with its anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008.

The auto sector has been under particular scrutiny, and the NDRC has been investigating the industry amid accusations by state media that global car makers are overcharging consumers.

Other global carmakers under investigation for anti-competitive behaviour include German luxury brand Mercedes-Benz, a unit of Daimler, and Chrysler, a unit of Italy’s Fiat.