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Daimler says assisting Chinese authorities in investigation

By Norihiko Shirouzu and Samuel Shen

Daimler AG’s luxury brand Mercedes-Benz said it is cooperating with China’s anti-monopoly authorities over an investigation into unspecified matters, after local Chinese media reported the German automaker’s Shanghai office had been raided.

“We confirm that we are assisting the authorities in their investigation,” Mercedes-Benz said in a statement, issued in response to a query from Reuters on whether the office had received anti-trust officials from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Asked about the nature of the investigation, Beijing-based Mercedes-Benz spokesman Senol Bayrak said the automaker is only confirming that anti-trust officials visited the office as part of an investigation. He declined to elaborate, saying it is “an on-going matter”.

A little-known Shanghai publication known as Jie Mian reported nine officials from the NDRC’s anti-trust investigation team sprung a surprise visit at Mercedes-Benz’s Shanghai office on Monday morning. The publication said the team interviewed many senior executives and confiscated computers as part of an investigation blitz into Mercedes-Benz.

Over the weekend before, Mercedes-Benz said it would lower prices on more than 10,000 spare parts by an average of 15 percent. The cut followed a sweeping reduction of prices for repair and maintenance services Mercedes-Benz announced last month.

The automaker is the latest foreign company to be targeted by Chinese regulators, who have ramped up anti-monopoly investigations in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics.

Regulators officially named U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc a monopoly last month and are widely expected to levy a heavy fine. Last week, agency investigators raided Microsoft Corp’s offices in four Chinese cities as part of an ongoing probe.

China is stepping up efforts to bring companies into compliance with an anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008, having in recent years targeted industries as varied as milk powder and jewelery.

Such investigations have led to substantial fines at a number multinational companies, including Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Danone SA .