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Daimler's China office searched in anti-trust probe

German carmaker Daimler has confirmed reports that a Shanghai office of its Mercedes-Benz unit was raided by Chinese anti-monopoly authorities. Daimler is said to be in the focus of regulators for its pricing policy.

Daimler's head office in China said in an e-mail to the news agency AFP on Tuesday it was "assisting the authorities in their investigations." The statement was the first confirmation of an official probe by China's anti-trust regulators into a foreign carmaker.

State-owned Shanghai United Media Group had reported earlier that nine anti-monopoly investigators from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) paid a surprise visit to the office of Daimler's Mercedes-Benz unit in Shanghai. Office workers were grilled and computers "forcibly" checked, the group's new media platform, Jiemian, reported Monday.

A security guard at the premises told the news agency AFP that the raid took "all day yesterday" and continued for "three or four hours this morning."

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Daimler, which is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, didn't directly refer to the incident in its statement, but said the matter was ongoing.

China has launched a series of investigations into alleged breaches of the country's anti-monopoly rules, including sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry and milk powder producers. Just last week, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) announced a probe into US software giant Microsoft for allegedly operating a monopoly in China.

China's NDRC authority investigates violations from a pricing perspective. Quoting an unnamed source in the NDRC, Jiemian said in its report that Mercedes-Benz had moved into the focus of regulators for "its prices of finished automobiles and its policy of maintaining minimum prices with distributors."

On Sunday, Daimler announced it would cut prices of more than 10,000 spare parts for its premium cars in China.

uhe/hg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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