China’s antitrust regulator has started its review of a general offer by US private-equity firm Blackstone Group to take control of property developer Soho China , a necessary step needed for the US$3.05 billion deal to be concluded. The acquirer was notified on August 3 that the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) had accepted its application for the takeover , Soho China said in an exchange statement late on Friday. More information or materials may have to be submitted to SAMR for vetting under China’s anti-monopoly law, the statement said, without stating how long the review would take. Soho’s shares rose 1.3 per cent to HK$3.22 at the close on Friday in Hong Kong. The stock has dropped 30 per cent since the general offer was announced in June. The antitrust review of the Soho deal comes at a sensitive time, when ties between China and the United States remain frayed despite US President Joe Biden taking office in January. His administration has warned US businesses about the risks of investing in China because of Beijing’s tightening grip over Hong Kong, and its escalating crackdown on industries ranging from e-commerce and real estate to private tutoring firms, sectors deemed as having too much sway over China’s economy. Soho China, founded by husband and wife Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin in 1995, is a developer of residential and commercial projects. The firm has been investing in office, retail and logistics assets since 2008 and owns about 6 million square metres of property in China. It owns and operates commercial properties totalling 1.3 million square meters, including five office and retail properties in Beijing and four in Shanghai. Blackstone’s offer to buy Soho China at HK$5 represents an about 40 per cent discount on the developer’s audited book value as of the end of 2020, according to the proposal. On the conclusion of the deal, the US private-equity firm will control the company, while the stake held by Pan and Zhang will be reduced to 9 per cent. The couple will sell 2.86 billion shares, or a 55 per cent stake, for HK$14.3 billion. The real estate sector is among industries China’s top policymakers have blamed for exacerbating social inequality, widening the wealth gap and hampering quality growth. Property prices have been surging over the past year, fuelled partially by the unprecedented amounts of liquidity unleashed by the central bank to cushion the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Local governments in top-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have rolled out a flurry to measures to cool speculation, such as tightening approvals of mortgages and clamping down on practices such as faking divorce to qualify for the purchase of an additional home.