China-based ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing is under an antitrust investigation, spearheaded by China’s Ministry of Commerce, following Didi's acquisition of Uber's Chinese operations earlier in the summer (via The Wall Street Journal). The Ministry of Commerce said today that it's opened an investigation "after it received questions over whether the ride-hailing deal complied with the nation’s antitrust law."

The investigation has reportedly been ongoing for a while now, as the commerce ministry has held two meetings surrounding the deal between Didi and Uber. According to transcripts of the meetings, the focus has been on asking Didi why it didn't apply for antitrust review before moving forward with the deal. When its acquisition of Uber went public, Didi claimed it didn't need to apply to antitrust regulators "because UberChina’s revenue didn’t reach the 400 million yuan ($60 million) “turnover” threshold triggering an antitrust review."

didi_uber_icons

At issue is the vague word “turnover” in China’s antimonopoly law, which could be interpreted as either revenue or transaction volume, China accountants say. UberChina’s transaction volume almost certainly exceeds 400 million yuan, but Uber counts only a fraction of each fare as part of its revenue. That is because the company—like other “platforms” such as Groupon Inc.—says it is only a middleman and that it only passes along fares from riders to drivers, taking a thin cut.

Many professionals looking into the case still believe that the Didi/Uber deal will go through in the end, with one ministry spokesman saying that, right now, they're just trying "to understand the online ride-hailing business model and the sector’s competitive environment." According to Lester Ross, a Beijing-based attorney with U.S. law firm WilmerHale, Chinese regulators are simply "flexing their muscles" following public fear that a consolidation of ride-hailing firms would result in higher fares.

Apple's connection to the investigation lies in its own $1 billion investment into Didi Chuxing earlier in May, which gave it access to data and expertise on electric and autonomous car technology, as well as a foot in the door with the Chinese investment community. Although still a widely-known rumor, the Didi investment got tied into Apple's car-related Project Titan, which is an "open secret" within Silicon Valley. In July, it was reported that Apple hired a new chief on its Apple Car project, Bob Mansfield, with a shift in focus now on autonomous driving.

Top Rated Comments

macduke Avatar
62 months ago
When I first woke up, the headline sounded like complete word salad. It took me a minute to figure out what in the world it was saying.
It's still word salad, with startup dressing.

--

I thought monopolies were a good thing in China?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DavisEngeler Avatar
62 months ago
Apple-Backed Didi Chuxing Under Antitrust Investigation After Uber China Acquisition
When I first woke up, the headline sounded like complete word salad. It took me a minute to figure out what in the world it was saying.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
phairphan Avatar
62 months ago
Am I the only person mildly surprised that China has antitrust laws?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GrumpyMom Avatar
62 months ago
When I first woke up, the headline sounded like complete word salad. It took me a minute to figure out what in the world it was saying.
I have not had my morning tea or coffee yet. I followed just enough to think to myself that if I were Tim Cook I'd wish I would wake up and realize the whole thing...Didi, Hanging out with Eddy and Dre, Planet of the Apps, Tweets from Kanye, spats with Taylor, giving away gold apple watches to celebrities who don't even know what they are, fights with the EU...was all a really bad dream and that I was still running a computer company.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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