China Steps Up Antitrust Pressure on Internet Firms

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SINGAPORE—Chinese regulators have intensified scrutiny of dozens of domestic internet companies for possible antitrust violations, people familiar with the matter said.

In recent weeks, agents from government agencies including the antitrust watchdog, the cyber police and tax authorities have paid surprise visits to some companies, according to the people. Those visited included Didi Chuxing Technology Co., according to the IPO prospectus of the ride-hailing firm.

During some of the on-site inspections, agents have questioned senior executives, downloaded contracts and financial records and collected emails and internal communications, the people said. The agencies involved include the State Administration for Market Regulation, the Cyberspace Administration of China and the State Tax Administration, they said.

These actions are a part of a regulatory review that followed submissions of self-examinations by 34 technology companies summoned by authorities in April, the people said. A month later, the antitrust watchdog held another meeting with provincial-level regulators and asked them to follow up on the investigations.

The 34 companies included short-video app operator Bytedance, food-delivery firm Meituan and social-media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. It isn’t fully known which of the 34 companies were visited by agents. The regulatory review doesn’t necessarily mean the companies would face punishment.

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