Removal of Licensing Requirements for Foreign-Invested Advertising Agencies in the Shanghai FTZ

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By Kate Wang, Dezan Shira & Associates

On September 26, 2013, China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce (State AIC) issued “Suggestions on Supporting the Construction of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ)” (Suggestions) which, among other things, removed certain restrictions regarding the establishment of foreign-invested advertising enterprise in the Zone as stipulated under the Administrative Regulations for Foreign-invested Advertising Enterprises (Regulations).

Under the Regulations, foreign companies in China are required to meet certain shareholder qualifications and obtain a special license to engage in advertising. This means that they have to first seek approval from the Advertising Department under the Administration of Industry Commerce and submit proof that they meet the relevant requirements. More specifically, for a foreign investor to enter into a joint venture advertising enterprise with a Chinese company, the Regulations require that the foreign investor be themselves engaged in the advertising business and have three years or more experience doing so.

Investors in a wholly foreign-owned advertising enterprise must have been mainly engaged in the advertising business for three years or more. Foreign shareholders are required to provide at least three years of audit reports showing that revenue from advertising occupied more than 50 percent of total revenue. If the shareholder is from HK, he/she may apply to the HK Trade and Industry Department for a CEPA Certificate proving that the shareholder is an advertising provider in HK, in which case it is no longer necessary to provide three years’ of audit reports. If the application is approved, a license titled the Examination Opinion for Project Proposal of a Foreign-invested Advertising Enterprise will be granted which should then be submitted to MOFCOM to obtain an Approval Certificate.

To establish branches, the foreign-invested advertising enterprise should have paid its registered capital in full, and have an annual advertising business turnover of not less than RMB20 million. These requirements have been removed under the Suggestions for advertising companies set up in the Zone. This means that companies set up in the Shanghai FTZ simply need to file a record for advertising projects and branch establishment, and the authorities do not have the right to examine applications for approval. Note: FTZ can also provide a virtual office with RMB 20,000 – 30,000 per year for registration purposes.

In addition, foreign-invested advertising enterprises in the Zone no longer need to submit separate applications for the following items and can instead conduct record-filing and directly apply for changes to their registration:

  • Change of joint venture partners;
  • Share transfer; and
  • Change of advertising business scope or registered capital.

This change may indicate a trend in which a number of special licenses are cancelled in the future. However this all depends on China’s national policy.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2014 edition of China Briefing Magazine, titled “Industry Specific Licenses and Certifications in China.” In this issue of China Briefing, we provide an overview of the licensing schemes for industrial products; food production, distribution and catering services; and advertising. We also introduce two important types of certification in China: the CCC and the China Energy Label (CEL). This issue will provide you with an understanding of the requirements for selling your products or services in China.

Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

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