Articles: Competition

Webb on "Backchat" re tourism and (second half) the future of authoritarian HK
RTHK, 16-Jul-2021
The discussion took a surprising turn…
The Main Board profit requirement - for whom?
Webb-site responds to the HKEX proposal which further raises the barriers to entry for smaller companies on its monopoly stockmarket and reduces investor choice. Help us out and add your voice! (14-Jan-2021)
Competition Commission takes Textbook cartel case to Competition Tribunal
HK Competition Commission, 20-Mar-2020
We note that one of the defendants, Mr Hui Chiu Ming, has been a Chief Executive Election Committee member since 2000, for the publishing sub-sub-sector.
Taching Petroleum Co Ltd v Meyer Aluminium Ltd
HK Competition Tribunal, 12-Sep-2018
Meyer is sued for payment for diesel oil, and in its defence it claims that Taching and Shell HK Ltd colluded in price-fixing in breach of the Competition Ordinance (CO). The Court of First Instance transferred that allegation to the Competition Tribunal, making it the first such action. However, when the Tribunal has made its finding, it will be transferred back to the CFI, because the CO doesn't allow private enforcement, only follow-on actions.
HK & Macau Governments launch cartels for HKZM bridge car permits
HK Government, 13-Feb-2018
There will be just 150 companies and 150 individuals who win a permit to drive from HK into Macau, and 600 in the other direction. HK permanent residents must have a job in Macau or have established a company there. A ballot will be held if there are more than 300 applicants. There will also be a Macau Port park-and-ride scheme with 3000 spaces, but by the time you've driven, parked and ridden, the ferry to CoTai might well be faster. There will also be a monopoly shuttle-bus franchise on the bridge.
Hong Kong's not-so-free economy
The US-based Heritage Foundation has, as always, ranked HK as the freest economy in the World. For once, the Government doesn't accuse foreign forces of interfering in HK's internal affairs. But this rosy view is not held by those who take the time to study the domestic economy. Here are a few things that Heritage may have overlooked. (4-Feb-2018)
Webb on the Government's under-priced metered parking
South China Morning Post, 28-Dec-2017
HK's Government competes unfairly with commercial parking by charging $8/hr for on-street parking when the private sector nearby charges $30. Proposals to increase that to $4 or $5 per 15 minutes won't make much difference, even if they overcome vested interests in LegCo. Meanwhile criminal gangs corner the meters and rake off the difference as "valet parking".
One Board, One Regulator
We respond to HKEX's 2nd attempt to introduce 2nd-class shares via a "New Board", rather than cleaning up its existing boards and transferring listing regulation to the statutory regulator which oversees takeovers, the SFC. Coupled with recent moves to embed the Communist Party in the constitutions of state-controlled enterprises, HK and China risk a toxic combination of no votes for government and no votes for capital, leading to an emerging tycoon-Communist Party oligarchy. We propose a better approach. (7-Aug-2017)
HK's cartel cop sees staff exit amid fight for change
Bloomberg, 17-Jul-2017
‘Baby sleep consultant’ row a rude awakening for city
South China Morning Post, 30-Apr-2017
The article neglects to mention that Ms Dalby pleaded guilty to credit card fraud in 2014 and received a 12 months jail sentence, suspended for 24 months. According to the Reasons for Sentence in DCCC 246/2014, she also had a shoplifting conviction in 2013. Associations in any profession always call for statutory licensing schemes as a way of creating a cartel and reducing competition. The Government should resist. Voluntary certification schemes are sufficient in this case.
Government locks HK into electricity scheme of control until 2034
HK Government, 25-Apr-2017
That's another 15 years without competition in the sector.
Alleged bid-rigging for YWCA server
HK Competition Commission, 23-Mar-2017
West Kowloon needs tender care
We urge the board of WKCDA, which was bypassed for months in the planning of the Palace Museum, to put the main architectural services contract out to tender, given that there is still no binding contract with Rocco Yim's company. Let him compete for the work, in line with HK's commitments to free and fair trade under WTO obligations. We estimate the contract size at HK$140m. (6-Feb-2017)
Who bought the 25 new taxi licences on Lantau?
HK Government, 19-Dec-2016
Each tenderer was only allowed to bid for 1 licence, so some groups used multiple companies - it appears that at least 5 licences were bought by Kwok Chung group and 3 by Chung Shing. The average price was HK$5.64m. Any premium demonstrates that there is unmet excess demand. People who wish to drive a vehicle for a living should not have to pay a premium to do so.
Webb on "Backchat" re taxis and other road transport cartels
RTHK, 19-Dec-2016
Note: Sonia Cheng is an Executive Director of Chung Shing Taxi Ltd, which with related companies owns about 350 licences with a rent-seeking value of about HK$2.1bn.
Competition Commission calls on Institutes of Architects and Planners to rectify practices
HK Competition Commission, 28-Nov-2016
The commission notes that the two statutory bodies are exempt from the Competition Ordinance. We note that the exemption of stautory bodies is one of the many holes in this swiss cheese of a law. The bulletin also contains a list of professional bodies which, until recently, had published anti-competitive practices such as fixed fees or had them in their code of conduct.
Teacher admits accepting illegal rebate over purchase of violin
ICAC, 20-Jun-2016
Presentation on HK securities market reform
These are the slides from a presentation by David Webb to accountants hosted by legislator Kenneth Leung this evening. (16-May-2016)
HKTVN (1137) v Chief Executive in Council
HK Court of Appeal, 6-Apr-2016
The Court of Appeal overturns the First Instance ruling and holds that "no artificial limits" on the number of TV licences does not preclude the CE from adopting a limit in a "gradual and orderly" approach to avoid "over-competition, vicious competition or industry fallout". In our view, the court is wrong. When a Government decides a limit, that's artificial. When the market finds a limit through competition, and when some players succeed and others fail, that's natural. Whatever next - a limit on the number of newspapers to prevent "over-competition"? Ironically, ATV failed anyway, despite Government efforts to protect it from "industry fallout".
Ex-Tom Lee teacher admits accepting illegal rebate over purchase of harp
ICAC, 29-Mar-2016
Lai Kam Kit decides to face the music rather than let them harp on about it. Her co-defendant Tse On Kei will be tried in June for allegedly fiddling a violin purchase which had strings attached.
Tom Lee Music practices not fair play
We look behind an ICAC prosecution of music teachers and find bad practices at the tax-exempt Tom Lee Music Foundation, which requires its teachers to exclusively push products for Tom Lee Music Company. (28-Feb-2016)
HK companies see record closures, slowest growth since 2003
Webb-site reveals that 2015 saw the slowest net growth in HK companies since the recession of 2003 and record levels of dissolution. Market forces may still be alive though, with about half of 2007's companies already closed, despite the Government's increasing intervention. We don't need an Innovation and Technology Bureau, but we do need removal of Government barriers to information and competition - and they could start by removing the paywall on public registries. (2-Jan-2016)
Busting HK's road transport cartels Chinese translation
On the day the competition law takes effect, we take a long hard look at the anti-competitive legislation and policies which support a HK$116bn taxi cartel, a $22bn minibus cartel and a $13bn non-franchised bus cartel as well as restricting the hire car market. The Government should scrap all restrictions and franchises, introduce congestion pricing, and allow competition to serve the public interest. (14-Dec-2015)
Competition Commission & Consumer Council call on Government to introduce electricity competition
HK Competition Commission, 21-Sep-2015
Excellent stuff. Won't happen.
The architect and surveyor cartels
Webb-site finds written evidence of price-fixing and other anti-competitive practices at the HK Institute of Architects, HK Institute of Landscape Architects and HK Institute of Surveyors. But they do have 1 legislator and 30 seats in the CE's Election Committee, so when will C Y Leung activate the Competition Ordinance? (25-Jan-2015)
An aerial tour of HK's monopolies and anti-competitive practices
The slides from a presentation by Webb-site founder David Webb to the Asian Competition Forum at Polytechnic University this morning. When you get to slide 30, click the box to launch the online video. (9-Dec-2014)
HK Govt proposes to exempt HKEx and subsidiaries from competition law
HK Legislative Council, 24-Nov-2014
Comment: this is outrageous. There is no reason why the stock and futures exchanges, and their clearing houses, should be exempt from the law. These are commercial activities and HKEx should not be allowed to defend their monopolies with anti-competitive practices. HK Govt owns nearly 6% of HKEx.
C Y Leung on cartels and politics
YouTube, 3-Nov-2014
HK spells out status rules for airlines
South China Morning Post, 20-Oct-2014
Webb on "Backchat" re competition ordinance
RTHK, 28-May-2014
Why did the SFC kill HSBC's Stockmax?
Two years after the SFC shut retail investors out HSBC's automated trading system, an SFC announcement gives some indication of what happened, but still leaves retail investors wondering why a pioneering service which offered potential price improvement and competition for HKEx's monopoly stock market was not allowed. (20-Dec-2013)
Supermarkets: Consumer Council calls for Competition Commission probe
Company media release, 19-Dec-2013
Now you understand why Hutchison Whampoa was trying to sell Park'N Shop. They still have a while to enjoy their margins: the Competition Ordinance was pased in Jun-2012 but won't take effect for some time, so anti-competitive behaviour (if any) is still legal in HK. The Commission was appointed on 1-May-2013 but doesn't even have a web site yet. The Government does not seem anxious to get things moving.
HKICPA reprimands Wallen Wu for quoting a fee on his web site
HKICPA, 2-Dec-2013
Who knew that the HKICPA has a rule prohibiting the advertising of fees? Surely that is an anti-competitive rule. This accountant is now in trouble for breaking it, for quoting a fee on his home page for incorporating a company, something that other service providers do all the time. Bizarrely, HKICPA draws a distinction between a homepage and other pages of a web site, claiming that the home page is "analagous to a newspaper advertisement" while other pages are not. All web pages require active requests, of course.
Interview with David Webb
HK Magazine, 7-Mar-2013
The alternative Budget Speech, 2013: Prosperity through Reform
Webb-site reveals the Hong Kong Budget Speech which should be delivered next Wednesday. (22-Feb-2013)
LegCo passes Competition Bill
HK Government, 14-Jun-2012
David Webb: Why HK should back competition law and class actions
International Financial Law Review, 28-Feb-2012
Webb on "Backchat" re Competition Bill and statutory bodies
RTHK, 15-Feb-2012
Measures to water down Competition Bill
HK Government, 25-Oct-2011
HSBC's StockMax becomes StockMin
It was a false dawn for retail investors - the SFC has caved in to pressure and amended the license conditions of HSBC's Stockmax Crossing platform to restrict it to "professional investors" only. History will prove them wrong. (14-Aug-2011)
StockMax and competition for HKEx
We look at the implications of HSBC's proposed StockMax dark pool with retail investor participation. It's a wake-up call to the Government, SFC and HKEx that we need to move forward with allowing competition to innovate services both inside and outside HKEx. We propose measures to achieve this while preserving fair and orderly markets. (7-Aug-2011)
CNH spread
In a 4-bank survey, Webb-site looks at the wide spreads and differing prices offered by HK banks to residents for exchange between HKD and CNH, the offshore proxy for the mainland CNY. (13-Jun-2011)
Reforming HK Markets - the Political Realities
A presentation by David Webb to the FIX Protocol conference. (25-May-2011)
LCQ: the competitiveness of the Hong Kong stock exchange
HK Government, 6-Apr-2011
Comment: nothing prevents a "flash crash" in HK, and indeed we had a mini-version of this in HSBC on 9-Mar-2009. There are no circuit-breakers on SEHK. Regarding trading spreads, HKEx U-turned on that in 2007 and there has been no progress since then.
HKSAR v cooked food stall bidders
HK Court of Final Appeal, 13-Dec-2010
The CFA upholds the Court of Appeal ruling.
Webb on "Backchat" re the Competition Bill
RTHK, 9-Nov-2010
Webb on "Backchat" re HK economy
RTHK, 6-Sep-2010
Arculli's rant against competition for HKEx
The HKEx Chairman has apparently launched a campaign to exempt it from the Competition law currently going through LegCo. We dissect his factually flawed and technophobic arguments. Investors in HKEx should not expect its monopolistic profit margin to continue forever. Let the competition begin. (29-Jul-2010)
HKSAR v cooked food stall bidders
HK Court of Final Appeal, 9-Jul-2010
The CFA grants an extension of time and leave to appeal on a point of law.
Competition Bill gazetted
HK Government, 2-Jul-2010
The bill claims to be a "cross-sector" competition law, but the merger provisions only apply to the telecoms sector. So competitors can avoid price-fixing by merging.
HK's competition bill
HK Gazette, 2-Jul-2010
Webb on "Backchat" re proposed competition law
RTHK, 27-May-2010
HKSAR v cooked food stall bidders
HK Court of Appeal, 26-May-2010
The Court of Appeal refuses to certify points of law for the Court of Final Appeal.
Cathay Pacific on OFT Investigation
Company announcement, 23-Apr-2010
"Cathay Pacific has a policy of full compliance with competition law" - but we'd be shocked if they had a policy of non-compliance with any law! Then again, the company pleaded guilty in 2008 to USA criminal price-fixing charges on air cargo from HK to the USA and elsewhere and was fined US$60m.
UK OFT issues statement of objections against Cathay Pacific Airways and Virgin Atlantic
UK Office of Fair Trading, 22-Apr-2010
Comment: price-fixing in HK remains perfectly legal - we still don't have a competition law.
Cooked auctions in HK
A Court of Appeal judgment overturns fraud convictions for bid-rigging for cooked food stalls at Tai Po Hui Market and makes clear that bid-rigging is perfectly legal. We call for the proposed competition law to make bid-rigging, price-fixing and other anti-competitive behaviour criminal offences. Civil tribunals won't cut it, not least because they cannot fine humans. In the meantime, the Government should include no-rigging warranties as a requirement for all tenders, so that they can prosecute for fraud. (8-Apr-2010)
HKSAR v cooked food stall bidders
HK Court of Appeal, 1-Apr-2010
Webb on "Backchat" re market reforms, tycoons and the political structure
RTHK, 31-Mar-2010
Government supermarket vouchers
Supermarket vouchers are often used as a sales incentive in HK, for anything from minibonds to TVs. The Government's last proposal for a competition law would still allow behaviour such as resale price maintenance, which the EU outlaws because it is "severely anti-competitive". Have you ever wondered how much those supermarket vouchers actually cost? A government tender to buy them reveals the answer. (27-Mar-2010)
Class actions for HK
In a potentially huge step forward for access to justice, the Law Reform Commission proposes a class action system for HK. The key issue is litigation funding. Rather than a government-sponsored gatekeeper fund, we need a free-market approach, with contingent legal fees and the abolition of archaic laws against champerty and maintenance, to allow self-funded lawyers and third party funders to bear the risks of loser-pays-costs. Take our opinion poll and tell them what you think! (17-Mar-2010)
Town Health (3886) circular on acquisition of minority interest in FOMT
Company circular, 5-Nov-2009
Town Health (3886) merges medical isotope business into subsidiary of HK Health Check (0397)HK Health Check circular
Company announcement, 15-Oct-2009
Town Health is swapping Health Walk Ltd for 49% of Luck Key Investment Ltd, which will be 51% owned by HK Health Check. Simultaneously, Health Walk is buying the remaining 22% of its subsidiary, FOMT, for HK$19m in new Town Health shares (4.49% of Town Health). The pre-tax profit margin of FOMT in the 2 years to 31-Mar-2009 s 85% and 67%, which suggests a lack of competition in the sector.
Rent distortion in container truck game
The Government moved the goalposts and created uncertainty in future tenders of short-term land tenancies by cutting rents by 20% for 6 months at a cost to taxpayers of HK$166m. It serves them right that they are now fielding complaints from car park users who realise that the tenants were the main beneficiaries. (8-Jun-2009)
Town Health (3886) buys 27% of FOMT for HK$32m in shares (6.9%) of Town HealthCircular
Company announcement, 1-Jun-2009
The business of generating isotopes for PET scans had a pre-tax profit margin of 85% in the year to 31-Mar-2008 and 73% in the 10 months to 31-Jan-2009, which suggests a lack of competition in the sector. St Teresa's Hospital has a 6% minority interest in the subsidiary, First Oriental Cyclotron Ltd, which has a cyclotron in the hospital basement.
Consumer Council's own-goal
In a spectacular own-goal against consumers, the Hong Kong Consumer Council has called for support of the "no-surcharge" rule for credit and charge cards, an anti-competitive rule which other countries have outlawed. It maintains higher consumer prices, boosts card issuers' profits, encourages consumer debt and distorts the payment system against cash and debit cards. It should be outlawed. (23-Aug-2008)
19 jailed for defrauding FEHD over bidding of cooked food stalls
ICAC, 19-May-2008
The convictions were later quashed by the Court of Appeal, and this was upheld by the Court of Final Appeal.
Government plans Food Adjustment Mechanism has learned of HK Government plans to address public concerns over food prices with a Food Adjustment Mechanism or FAM, setting prices annually in line with inflation. It also plans to buy shares in the two major supermarket chains to encourage the development of Islamic supermarkets and possible future mergers between the chains. (13-Sep-2007)
Webb on "Backchat" re taxi pricing & licensing
RTHK, 29-Nov-2006
Webb on "Backchat" re Competition Law consultation
RTHK, 10-Nov-2006
Webb on Backchat re the need for a competition law in HK
RTHK, 17-Nov-2005
Government Blocks Free Market in Tickets
Imagine a securities law which allows IPOs but bans share-trading above the IPO price. That, in a nutshell, is a description of the law on the market for entertainment tickets in Hong Kong. We call on the Government to stop interfering in private contract and wasting law-enforcement resources, and allow the resale of tickets at free market prices. Legalising ticket trading would create new employment, increase profits tax revenue and help set ticket prices in the primary market. (7-Sep-2005)
Webb on "Backchat" re the need for a competition law in HK
RTHK, 11-Apr-2005
Hong Kong's casino
Never mind Lantau, Hong Kong does have a fully operational casino with a legally protected monopoly. We comment on the M-chip craze and the hypocrisy that permits the public to take risks in the markets and on property, but prohibits risk-taking in other forms of gambling outside of the Jockey Club monopoly. We call for liberalisation of the gambling sector. (24-Nov-2004)
2007 & HK's Future
Your editor addressed the Legislative Council's Constitutional Affairs Panel today, on the question of universal suffrage for the election of Hong Kong's Chief Executive in 2007. We urged the Government to stop dragging its feet and implement a free market in policy-makers through the ballot box. (16-Jun-2003)
Monopolies Rule
A secret unofficial translation of a government TV commercial promotes Hong Kong's monopolistic economy while appearing to promote the rule of law. (28-Mar-2003)
Commission Deregulation: No More Delays
How ironic that in a week in which Hong Kong was again named the World's freest economy, the Government was talking about further delaying the abolition of minimum commissions to protect the inefficient small broker cartel. So much for letting the market pick winners. If the Government believes in free markets, it must allow brokers and clients to negotiate their rates. (13-Nov-2002)
Government Backs Cartel
In a move which highlights the fallacy of its claim to promote a free market economy, the HK Government has told HKEx, whose board it controls, to delay plans to scrap the minimum commission rule. We look at the wider aspects of what this says for competition policy in Hong Kong, and at the way vested interests dominate the debate on market reforms when investor representation is absent. We call again for the government to adopt the HAMS Proposal. (24-Jan-2002)
Smoking Gun has obtained a letter which provides an exclusive look at Legislator Henry Wu's anti-competitive attempt to maintain the brokerage cartel's fixed commission rates. In other jurisdictions, this kind of collusion and price-fixing would be illegal. Hong Kong badly needs a competition law. (5-Nov-2001)
Scrap the Cartel
Small brokers are launching a last-ditch effort to continue the indefensible minimum commission rate set by the SEHK, due to be scrapped on 1-Apr-02. urges the Government to ignore them - the market is run for customers, not for brokers. Let the competition begin! (31-Oct-2001)
Hong Kong Needs a Competition Law
In this piece on economic governance, looks at the pressing need for Hong Kong to establish a comprehensive competition law and an authority with investigatory powers, in line with accepted practice in most developed markets. The government-appointed Consumer Council first called for this in 1996, and it is a necessary condition for a World-class City. An edited version of this article first appeared in the Financial Times today in a debate with HKSAR Financial Secretary Antony Leung. (13-Jul-2001)
APES at the WEF - diary of a delegate
So what was it all about? brings you a delegate's diary of the WEF's Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Melbourne. We outline some of the issues surrounding globalisation. Next year the summit comes to Hong Kong, where competition regulation should be placed on the agenda. (17-Sep-2000)

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