- Analogue Holdings, founded by Teresa Cheng's husband, Otto Poon, suspected to have breached competition law
A listed engineering company controlled by the husband of Hong Kong's justice minister is being investigated for allegedly breaching competition laws, it was disclosed on Thursday night.
Analogue Holdings, founded by Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah's husband, Otto Poon Lok-to, announced that officers from the Competition Commission visited the office of its wholly owned subsidiary ATAL Building Services Engineering on Wednesday with two search warrants.
It said the commission had reasonable cause to suspect ATAL and other named competitors had contravened the first conduct rule of the Competition Ordinance during a tender for work with a Hong Kong developer.
The first conduct rule covers various types of business conduct, including price fixing, market sharing, bid rigging and output restrictions, as well as resale price maintenance and joint ventures, joint tendering, franchising and distribution agreements.
The announcement came after Analogue " one of the city's largest electrical and mechanical engineering companies, of which Poon owns 63.48 per cent through a family trust " suspended trading on Thursday. Trading was expected to resume on Friday.
Analogue said ATAL was invited in August last year to submit a tender to a property developer with commercial, residential, industrial, retail and hotel development projects in the city. It added that the developer was independent of Analogue.
ATAL submitted its tender for the contract, valued at about HK$13 million (US$1.7 million), in September last year. It was later notified by the developer that it was unsuccessful, Analogue added.
"ATAL Building Services is in the course of seeking legal advice on the matter and will cooperate with any inquiry that the Competition Commission may have under the Competition Ordinance," Analogue said.
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The Competition Commission confirmed on Thursday night that it had conducted searches in regard to an investigation, including at the premises of ATAL. A spokesman would make no further comment.
Cheng's links to Analogue were made public in a July disclosure to the Hong Kong stock exchange, which stated the veteran barrister "is deemed" to share majority ownership of the company.
Cheng was revealed as a "substantial shareholder" by law in Analogue, leading to questions at the time over whether she should have declared that to the public as a matter of accountability, even though she was not obliged to.
According to the public declarations of interests of the Executive Council, the city leader's cabinet, Cheng never disclosed her ties with Analogue. But it was not clear whether she disclosed her ties at any Exco meeting, as the minutes are confidential.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice stressed previously that Cheng was not required to make such public disclosure.
The 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world's longest sea crossing, which cost HK$120 billion, was one of Analogue's most prominent projects.
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