LawFlash

China Issues Provisions to Govern Simple Anti-Monopoly Cases

February 25, 2014

中国出台关于经营者集中简易案件暂行规定

The Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) has issued Interim Provisions on the Standards Applicable to Simple Cases of Concentration of Business Operators (the “Provisions”) effective as of February 12, 2014, to define which M&A cases required to be reviewed by MOFCOM under China’s Anti-monopoly Law will and will not be deemed “simple” anti-monopoly cases. The Provisions appear to have been influenced by the European Commission’s simplified merger review procedure, which itself has just been expanded to cover more transactions.1 Although the Provisions do not establish a streamlined procedure for processing simple cases, it is generally expected that under the yet-to-be issued rules to implement the Provisions, simple cases will enjoy procedural benefits that will speed up the MOFCOM anti-monopoly review process.

1 Simple Anti-monopoly Case Defined

According to the Provisions, subject to certain exceptions noted below, a case will be deemed a simple case for the purpose of MOFCOM’s anti-monopoly review if it falls within any of the following situations:

  1. Where the business operators participating in the concentration are in the same market, the combined market share of these operators is less than 15%;
  2. Where an upstream or downstream relationship exists between the business operators participating in the concentration, the combined market share of these operators is less than 25% in each of the upstream and the downstream markets;
  3. Where the business operators participating in the concentration are not in the same market, or where no upstream or downstream relationship exists between the business operators participating in the concentration, the combined market share of these operators is less than 25% in each market;
  4. Where a business operator participating in the concentration establishes a joint venture outside China, the joint venture does not engage in any business activities within China;
  5. Where a business operator participating in the concentration acquires the equity or assets of an overseas enterprise, the overseas enterprise does not engage in any business activities within China; or
  6. Where a joint venture that is jointly controlled by two or more business operators will be controlled by one or more of such business operators after the concentration.

2 Exceptions

Even if a case satisfies the conditions in Section 1 above, it will not be deemed a simple anti-monopoly case:

  1. Where a joint venture that is jointly controlled by two or more business operators will be controlled by one of such business operators after the concentration, and the said business operator competes against the joint venture in the same market;
  2. Where the relevant market in a concentration transaction is difficult to define;
  3. Where the concentration transaction may have adverse effects on market entry or technological advances;
  4. Where the concentration transaction may have adverse effects on consumers and other relevant business operators;
  5. Where the concentration transaction may have adverse effects on the development of China’s national economy; or
  6. Any other situation where MOFCOM believes the concentration transaction may have adverse effects on market competition.

Last December MOFCOM issued a report on its efforts to improve its efficiency in implementing Anti-monopoly Reviews of Concentration of Undertakings.2 Although improvements in its processing times were noted, it nonetheless reported a considerable gap between its case processing times and those prevailing in the US and the EU. MOFCOM reported that only 13% of the 161 cases it concluded in the January to October 2013 period were concluded in the first 30-day review period, with 80.7% being advanced to the second 90-day review period before they were concluded.3 This stands in sharp contrast to the review times under America’s Hart-Scott-Rodino and the European Commission’s pre-merger filing regimes. In the US, only 3.5% of the 1,429 cases filed in fiscal 2012 resulted in a request for additional information and documentary material ( known as a “second request”), thereby pushing the review process beyond the initial 30-day waiting period.4 The proportion of EC mergers decided during the in-depth Phase II review was even lower (2.2%) in 2013.5

While the exceptions to “simple case” status under the Provisions leave considerable scope for MOFCOM to assert its review jurisdiction in just about any case meeting its filing thresholds, as they remain likely to do in cases involving sensitive industries or where local competitors complain, the effort expended by MOFCOM to formulate and promulgate sensible simple case definitions evidence its sincere intention to address a significant shortcoming.

Endnotes

1 Commission Notice of 5 December 2013 on a Simplified Procedure for Treatment of Certain Concentrations under Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004. The Notice forms part of the ‘merger simplification package’, which is applicable as of 1 January 2014 (Official Journal C 366, 14.12.2013, p. 5).

2 Available in English at http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/zt_review2013/column1/
201401/20140100453521.shtml
and in Chinese at http://www.mofcom.gov.en/article/ae/ai/201312/
20131200412789.shtml

3 Id. MOFCOM’s 180-day statutory merger review period is comprised of three phases: (i) phase I is 30 calendar days; (ii) phase II is 90 calendar days; and (iii) phase III (extended review) is 60 calendar days. The reported performance does not include the case review/process time MOFCOM takes before it officially accepts a case for filing, thereby starting the 3-phase statutory clock.

4 See Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice Hart-Scott-Rodino Annual Report, Fiscal 2012 at 5-6, http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports_annual/35th-report-fy2012/130430hsrreport_0.pdf. The corresponding percentage for fiscal years 2003-2011 ranged between a low of 2.5% and a high of 4.5%.

5 In Europe, 277 cases were notified in 2013. The European Commission made 252 decisions during a Phase I review (i.e., 91%) and 6 cases were decided in Phase II (i.e., 2.2%). The remaining cases were either withdrawn or subject to a referral request. See European Commission DG COMP merger decision statistics webpage at http://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/statistics.pdf

中国出台关于经营者集中简易案件暂行规定

中国商务部(“商务部”)公布了《关于经营者集中简易案件适用标准的暂行规定》(“暂行规定”),以界定由商务部根据中国《反垄断法》审查的并购交易中哪些交易将被视为或不被视为经营者集中“简易”案件。暂行规定似乎受到欧盟委员会简易反垄断审查程序的影响(最近,欧盟委员会简易反垄断程序本身的适用范围扩大到适用于更多交易 )。商务部暂行规定自2014年2月12日起施行。虽然暂行规定中并未明确简易案件的简化审理程序,但是业界普遍预期在该暂行规定的实施细则(尚未公布)项下,简易案件将享有程序上的优势,而会使商务部反垄断审查程序提速。

1 关于经营者集中简易案件的界定

根据规定,除下文另行注明的特定例外情况外,符合下列情形的经营者集中案件,将被视为简易案件:

  1. 在同一相关市场,所有参与集中的经营者所占的市场份额之和小于15%;
  2. 存在上下游关系的参与集中的经营者,在上下游市场所占的份额均小于25%;
  3. 不在同一相关市场、也不存在上下游关系的参与集中的经营者,在与交易有关的每个市场所占的份额均小于25%;
  4. 参与集中的经营者在中国境外设立合营企业,合营企业不在中国境内从事经济活动;
  5. 参与集中的经营者收购境外企业股权或资产的,该境外企业不在中国境内从事经济活动;或者
  6. 由两个以上经营者共同控制的合营企业,通过集中被其中一个或一个以上经营者控制。

2 例外情况

即便一项案件符合上述条件, 但如存在下列情形,亦不被视为简易案件:

  1. 由两个以上经营者共同控制的合营企业,通过集中被其中的一个经营者控制,该经营者与合营企业属于同一相关市场的竞争者;
  2. 经营者集中涉及的相关市场难以界定;
  3. 经营者集中对市场进入、技术进步可能产生不利影响;
  4. 经营者集中对消费者和其他有关经营者可能产生不利影响;
  5. 经营者集中对国民经济发展可能产生不利影响;或
  6. 商务部认为可能对市场竞争产生不利影响的其他情形。

去年12月,商务部公布了一份有关其提高经营者集中反垄断审查效率的年终述评报告 。该年终述评报告指出商务部反垄断办案时间缩短,但是仍然与美国和欧盟有很大的差距。根据上述年终述评报告,2013年1—10月,反垄断局共审结案件161起,其中,第一阶段(30天)审结案件占比13%;进一步审查阶段(90天)审结案件占比80.7% 。这与美国《哈特—斯科特—罗迪诺反托拉斯改进法》项下以及欧盟委员会反垄断法规项下的办案时间形成鲜明的对比:2012财年,美国审结的1,429起反垄断案件中,只有3.5%的案件被要求补充额外信息和文件资料(“补充资料要求”),使其审查时间超出最初30日期限 ;2013年,进入欧盟第二阶段进一步审查的反垄断案件占比更小(2.2%) 。暂行规定内有关简易案件例外情形的规定虽然为商务部提供了相当的空间,使之可以对满足申报标准的几乎任何案件主张审查管辖(因为在涉及敏感行业或当地竞争者提出异议的情况下,商务部仍旧很有可能这样做),但是基于商务部为制定和公布简易案件合理界定标准而付出的努力,可以证明商务部具有解决该重大不足的真诚意愿。

1 2013年12月5日欧盟委员会《有关欧盟理事会第139/2004号规定项下特定集中交易简易处理程序的通知》。该通知作为“反垄断一揽子简化程序”的一部分,自2014年1月1日起施行(官方会刊C 366第5页,2013年12月14日)。
2 该年终述评报告的英文译文见: http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/zt_review2013/column1/
201401/20140100453521.shtml

中文原文见:http://www.mofcom.gov.en/article/ae/ai/201312/
20131200412789.shtml

3 同上。商务部180天法定审查期限由三个阶段组成:(i)第一阶段为30个日历日;(ii)第二阶段为90个日历日;以及(iii)第三阶段(延长审查阶段)为60个日历日。年终述评报告内的工作效率未将商务部在正式立案(以正式立案为起点计算上述三个阶段的法定期限)之前需要的核查/处理时间计算在内。
4 参见2012财年美国联邦贸易委员会和美国司法部《哈特—斯科特—罗迪诺反托拉斯改进法》年报第5-6页:http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports_annual/35th-report-fy2012/130430hsrreport_0.pdf 。2003财年至2011财年的对应比值介于最低2.5%至最高4.5%之间。
5 2013年,欧洲境内申报欧盟委员会受理的反垄断案件共有277起,其中,有252起在第一阶段内审结(91%),有6起在第二阶段内审结(2.2%)。剩余案件抑或被撤回或被提出移送申请。请参见欧盟委员会反垄断局反垄断审批数据网页: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/statistics.pdf

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Ye-Xiaowei
Beglin-Brian
Blad-Leiv

This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.