Microsoft targeted in apparent Chinese antitrust probe

BEIJING
Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:03pm EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for antitrust investigation as government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm’s Chinese offices on Monday. 

Representatives from China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce, which is responsible for enforcing business laws, made the visits to Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, according to local media reports that were confirmed by Microsoft.

The Chinese government agency declined to comment on the visits. A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was “happy to answer the government’s questions,” but declined to give any further information.

A source close to the company said the visits were most likely the preliminary stage of an antitrust investigation.

If that is the case, Microsoft would be one of the biggest U.S. companies to fall under the eye of Chinese regulators as they ramp up their oversight in an apparent attempt to protect local companies and customers.

Qualcomm Inc, the world’s biggest cellphone chip maker, is facing penalties that may exceed $1 billion in one such Chinese antitrust probe, following accusations of overcharging and abusing its market position.

Beijing’s increasing use of its 6-year-old anti-monopoly law and price competition rules to weigh-in on global mergers has riled U.S. companies and strained U.S.-China business relations.