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China fines foreign eyewear makers; Tesco Completes JV Deal
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) May 29, 2014

Tesco says completes Chinese joint venture
London (AFP) May 29, 2014 - British supermarket giant Tesco has completed the creation of its Chinese joint venture, forming the largest multi-format retailer in China, it said on Thursday.

The groups had already revealed plans earlier this year to combine Tesco's 131 branches and shopping mall operation in China, with China Resources Enterprise's Vanguard business that has 2,986 stores.

London-listed Tesco has a 20-percent stake and CRE has 80 percent of the venture, which is the biggest food retail business in China.

"We're very pleased to have completed this historic agreement," said Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke.

"The partnership creates a strong platform in one of the world's largest markets.

"We can now combine our strengths to build a profitable multichannel business, offering our customers in China the best of modern retail."

Tesco, which is Britain's biggest retailer, hopes that expansion into India and China can offset weakness in Europe.

Earlier this year, the company, the world's third-biggest supermarket group, also struck a joint-venture deal with India's Tata Group to become the first foreign supermarket to enter the country's $500-billion (362 billion-euro) retail sector.

The Asian deals are attempts by Tesco to transform its fortunes after suffering in 2012/13 the group's first drop in annual profits for almost two decades.

Tesco is battling weaker sales in main market Britain, and over the past two years has decided to close its failed US division Fresh & Easy and to exit from Japan.

China on Thursday fined several foreign eyewear makers more than 19 million yuan ($3.1 million) for "price manipulation", the government said, in the latest targeting of overseas firms in the giant market.

The powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, launched an investigation last August into alleged violations of anti-monopoly law in the sector, the agency said in a statement.

Five companies -- all foreign -- were given penalties ranging from 1.7 million yuan to 8.8 million yuan, it said.

They included units of France's Essilor, Germany's Carl Zeiss and Japan's Nikon, as well as Bausch & Lomb and Johnson & Johnson -- both of the United States -- according to the statement.

"All operators should take heed, be more law-abiding, consciously regulate their own prices and maintain market order for fair competition," it said, adding some companies had used coercive methods to maintain prices.

Japan's Hoya and another company whose name was given as Shanghai Weicon also faced investigation but escaped fines for providing evidence and acting to "rectify" the situation, the NDRC said.

It is unknown whether Shanghai Weicon has any relationship with German adhesive maker Weicon.

Last year, China launched similar probes into foreign firms' pricing for goods ranging from drugs to baby formula, moves which were perceived as ways to exert pressure on companies to control retail prices.

China eventually fined six mostly foreign baby formula producers, including New Zealand's Fonterra, for price-fixing as it sought to cool public anger over high costs in the sector.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities accused a top GlaxoSmithKline executive of ordering employees to commit bribery, following a 10-month probe into the British drugmaker.


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