China’s top antitrust regulator said Friday it has issued fines to companies including social media giant Tencent, ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing, and search engine Baidu over 10 investment deals in the internet sector that were in violation of the Anti-Monopoly Law.

Why it matters: China has in recent months stepped up scrutiny of tech firms over antitrust regulations. Friday’s disciplinary action involves the largest number of companies so far and the fines issued were the maximum amount allowed by China’s existing legal framework.

  • A proposed overhaul to China’s Anti-Monopoly Law will allow regulators to issue fines up to 10% of the offending company’s annual revenue.

Details: The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said in a statement (in Chinese) on Friday that the deals include Tencent’s 2018 investment in edtech firm Yuanfudao, Baidu’s 2014 acquisition of smart home equipment maker Ainemo, and a joint venture set up by Didi and Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.

  • Other deals include a merger deal involving a subsidiary of Alibaba, and a joint venture set up by TikTok parent ByteDance and a Shanghai newspaper group.
  • Twelve companies including Tencent and Baidu were each fined RMB 500,000 (around $77,000) for their involvement in the deals. The penalty is the maximum for unreported anti-competitive deals according to China’s current antitrust law.
  • China’s Anti-Monopoly Law requires companies to report investment or acquisition and merger deals that could create a “market dominant player,” or one that will hold more than 50% share of its relevant market. 

Context: In December, SAMR issued fines to Alibaba and affiliates of Tencent and logistics giant SF Express over three separate acquisition deals, a move that legal experts said was the country’s first batch of antitrust enforcements against tech firms.

  • In February, China put into effect new antitrust guidelines targeting internet platforms, which bans internet platforms from forcing merchants into exclusivity deals, offering different prices based on user data, and using algorithms to manipulate the market.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.