China’s antitrust crackdown threatens BHP demerger

China’s antitrust crackdown threatens BHP demerger

China seems to have found a way to counter act the negative effect giant iron ore producers oversupply are having in local market by applying the country's antitrust law to miners considered responsible the plunge in the steel making material’s price.

According to The Australian, BHP’s China boss, Chai Tan, met local industry officials last week to update them on the company’ proposed demerger, among other issues. Right after that, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued a statement saying it believed that “BHP and other iron ore suppliers should avoid abusing dominant market positions.” It also said there should be “a new pricing model” in the global iron ore market.

Wu Hanhong, an anti-monopoly expert at the Economics School at Renmin University of China, says Beijing could easily find aspects to challenge the demerger and so send a warning message to other players.

This because the country’s anti-monopoly regulation states the law shall apply to conduct outside China if it eliminates or has a restrictive effect on competition in the domestic market, Wu explains.

While BHP is not an iron or market leader like Rio Tinto and Vale, The Economist noted last month that even Microsoft, the world's largest software company, was accused of trust-like behaviour by China, when everyone knows it has little market power in that market, where a substantial amount of its products are pirated.

The issue is, as The Australian writes, that given Beijing antitrust fear campaign, foreign companies will have to be especially careful and walk the line.