【英语中国】中国反垄断的深层考量

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-4-19 10:28

小艾摘要: As Chinese regulators review global deals, Beijing is increasingly taking national interest and industrial policy into account rather than considering the deals strictly on antitrust grounds, a shift ...
As Chinese regulators review global deals, Beijing is increasingly taking national interest and industrial policy into account rather than considering the deals strictly on antitrust grounds, a shift highlighted by the far-reaching conditions placed on Glencore’s $64bn takeover of Xstrata.

Lawyers say that change of focus sets the stage for more aggressive rulings from Beijing, particularly in the resources sector.

China’s Antimonopoly Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce is one of the world’s youngest and least understood regulators, and the ruling on the Glencore-Xstrata deal – conditions for which run to some 15 pages – represents its most detailed to date.

The ruling is being scrutinised for what it means for other global deals, including the pending acquisition of US grain company Gavilon by Japanese trading house Marubeni, which has been delayed by at least six months as it awaits Beijing’s blessing.

China’s conditions on Glencore-Xstrata are more far-reaching than those of other antitrust regulators. As part of the conditions Glencore has agreed to sell a major copper mine in Peru, and Glencore-Xstrata will guarantee a certain supply of copper ore to China under annual contract prices over the next eight years.

The stipulations are unusual because from an antitrust perspective, the companies’ combined market share in China is relatively small: in copper ore, they accounted for 17.8 per cent of China’s imports in 2011, below the typical 30-35 per cent threshold for European or US antitrust action.

“This is extremely low for a market threshold,” says one antitrust lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This case is about China securing access to resources at a fair price; it has nothing to do with antitrust.”

China is the world’s biggest consumer of copper and relies on imported ore to feed its smelters and produce the red metal used in everything from air conditioners to electricity grids.

Glencore accounts for about 30 per cent of the freely-traded copper ore globally, though its market share is smaller in China.

Lawyers say Chinese ministries and industry groups are able to influence the antitrust process, resulting in rulings that reflect not just antitrust concerns but also China’s own industrial policy aims and its concerns over access to natural resources.

“Mofcom’s antitrust group is less independent than its counterparts in other jurisdictions,” says Lester Ross, a partner at law firm WilmerHale, pointing out that China’s economic planning ministry and mainland companies are also involved in the consultation process.

That is not unusual in global antitrust practices, but Mofcom’s relatively weak political status means other ministries and vested interests are able to have a significant say in outcomes.

“What China is seeking to do [with the Glencore-Xstrata ruling] is to make some assets available for purchase, presumably by Chinese companies, and also to exert some price pressure on a certain portion of sales of resources to China,” he adds.

For the next eight years, Glencore and Xstrata will sell China a minimum amount of copper concentrate annually, at a level set each year by Chinese regulators in correlation with the production levels of Glencore and Xstrata.

The minimum this year will be 900,000 tonnes, equivalent to Glencore and Xstrata’s average copper sales to China the previous two years.

The stipulation that a certain portion of those sales must be done under annual contract prices suggests Beijing is keen to encourage a partial return to the annual contract system that once defined global commodities markets such as iron ore.

The annual contract system under which the key steelmaking ingredient was sold to China fell apart in 2008 when Chinese buyers walked away from contracted values, and iron ore sales now are based on daily spot prices.

Veronica Lockyer, antitrust lawyer at Orrick in Shanghai, says Chinese regulators are particularly concerned about global deals in raw materials, energy and agricultural commodities – sectors Beijing considers key to national security.

“There are factors that Mofcom has to consider that are not factors that would ordinarily be considered in an antitrust process,” she adds, such as industrial policy and resources security.

Susan Ning, partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons in Beijing, said: “The decision itself is extraordinary in the way it provides so much detail. They have done a very thorough study of the case.”

中国监管当局在审核国际并购交易时,已不再仅仅以反垄断作为审核标准,而是越来越多把国家利益和产业政策纳入考量范围。这一转变,从中国官方为嘉能可(Glencore)与斯特拉塔(Xstrata)合并案所设置的多项限制条件中可见一斑。这项并购交易金额高达640亿美元。

律师们指出,中国政府姿态的改变,为它就未来的并购案做出更激进裁决埋下了伏笔,预计能源行业将受到最大影响。

中国商务部反垄断局(Antimonopoly Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce)是全球成立时间最短、也最不被外界所了解的监管机构。而其对嘉能可与斯特拉塔合并交易所做的裁决,则是各国监管当局当中最为细致的——相关限制条款足足长达15页。

市场正在仔细解读这项裁决对于其他跨国交易可能造成的影响。这些跨国交易中,包括日本贸易商社丸红(Marubeni)即将对美国谷物公司Gavilon发起的收购。这笔收购已被推迟了至少六个月,仍在等候中国政府的审核结果。

中国对嘉能可和斯特拉塔合并案所施加的限制条款,在影响力上远远超过了其他反垄断监管当局。作为条件之一,嘉能可已同意出售位于秘鲁的一处大型铜矿;合并后的公司还保证将还在未来八年中,按照年度合同价格向中国供应一定数量的铜矿石。

上述协议条款不同寻常,因为从反垄断的角度看,嘉能可和斯特拉塔两家公司在中国的合计市场份额相对较小:在中国2011年铜矿石进口量中,两家公司所占合计份额仅为17.8%,低于通常触发欧洲或美国监管当局采取反垄断行动的30%至35%的阀值。

一位不希望透露姓名的反垄断律师表示:“两家公司所占份额,相对于市场阀值来说极低。中国这一裁决主要是为了保证能以合理的价格获得资源,与反垄断没有任何关系。”

中国是全球第一大铜消费国,主要依靠进口铜矿来满足国内冶炼厂的生产需要,产出的铜被用于从空调到电网等各个领域。

在全球可自由贸易的铜矿石市场,嘉能可占据了约30%的份额,不过其在中国市场的份额相对较小。

律师们表示,中国政府部门和行业团体能对反垄断审核过程施加影响,裁决结果不仅反映出中国在反垄断方面的担忧,还反映出中国自身的产业政策目标以及它对自然资源供应安全的关注。

美国威凯平和而德律师事务所(WilmerHale)合伙人莱斯特?罗斯(Lester Ross)表示:“与其他司法环境下的反垄断监管当局相比,中国商务部反垄断局的独立性较弱。”他指出,中国负责经济规划的部门以及一些大陆企业,也参与进了反垄断审核的征求意见过程。

这种做法在全球的反垄断操作中并不少见。但中国商务部相对弱势的政治地位意味着,其他部委以及既得利益方能够在很大程度上影响最终审核结果。

罗斯补充称:“中国对嘉能可与斯特拉塔合并交易所做裁决试图达到的目的是,使得某些资产或有机会被中资企业收购,并试图影响销往中国的部分资源价格。”

未来八年,嘉能可和斯特拉塔每年向中国出口的铜精矿数量不得低于某一最低值,这个值将由中国监管当局参照嘉能可和斯特拉塔当年的产出规模设定。

今年的最低出口规模被定为90万吨,相当于嘉能可和斯特拉塔在过去两年中对中国的平均铜矿出口量。

中国还要求两家公司对中国的出口中必须有一部分按照年度采购合同价格执行,这意味着中国有意推动市场部分回归至年度采购合同模式,这种模式曾一度主导铁矿石等全球大宗商品市场。

中国曾经按照年度采购合同模式进口铁矿石,但这一机制于2008年崩溃,当时中国买方拒绝履行合约采购价格。铁矿石的销售目前基于市场每日现价。

奥睿律师事务所(Orrick)驻上海律师韦罗妮卡?洛克耶(Veronica Lockyer)表示,中国监管当局尤其关注原材料、能源以及农产品领域的国际并购交易——中国政府认为这些领域对国家安全具有重大影响。

她补充称,“在中国商务部需要考虑的因素当中,有一些并不属于反垄断审核通常可能涉及的领域”,例如工业政策和资源安全。

金杜律师事务所(King & Wood Mallesons)驻北京合伙人宁宣凤(Susan Ning)表示:“中国政府所做裁决极不寻常,因为它包含了如此之多的细节条款。中国方面对于嘉能可和斯特拉塔的并购交易做了非常透彻的研究。”

译者/马拉

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