Comcast's DreamWorks Animation Acquisition to Face Anti-Trust Review in China

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NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke

China's commerce ministry says it has received unspecified complaints that the U.S. deal, which closed last week, could hurt competition in the Chinese market.

China's commerce ministry is launching an anti-trust investigation into Comcast's recent acquisition of DreamWorks Animation.

"We will probe into the case based on anti-monopoly laws," said Shen Danyang, a spokesman from China's Ministry of Commerce, during a briefing in Beijing on Friday, as reported by Reuters. Shen said authorities had received complaints that the deal could threaten competition in the Chinese market, but he declined to specify the source of the objections.

U.S. cable giant Comcast announced in April it would buy DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion via entertainment arm NBCUniversal. The U.S. Justice Department approved the purchase in June after finding no threat to competition. The deal closed last week. NBCUniversal, led by CEO Steve Burke, now operates the animation studio.

China can block international deals when it determines them to pose a threat to competition in the country. But such actions have been rare. One example, highlighted Friday by Bloomberg, came two years ago when China's commerce ministry blocked an alliance between the world’s three biggest shipping lines despite the fact that none of the companies were Chinese and the agreement had won prior approval by U.S. and European regulators.

DreamWorks Animation, under founder and former CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, was one of the first U.S. entertainment companies to set up a studio presence in China. In 2012, DWA partnered with China Media Capital and other state-backed entities to establish Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai. DWA owns a 45 percent stake in the venture, which co-produced the latest film in the Kung Fu Panda franchise.

DWA's holdings in China weren't mentioned in the ministry of commerce spokesman's limited statements on the impending anti-trust inquiry, however. 

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Comcast and NBCUniversal for comment. 

During the briefing, the commerce ministry also said it is investigating the proposed $35 billion merger between Chinese ride hailing company Didi Chuxing and Uber.  

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