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Prices soar as aborted plate sale goes ahead

PRICES for Shanghai car plates continued to climb this month in the auction that reopened yesterday following a hacker attack a week ago.

The average successful bid for a private car licence rose 2,159 yuan (US$316) to 32,522 yuan from a month earlier, the Shanghai International Commodity Auction Co said yesterday.

The lowest bid increased 2,100 yuan to 32,100 yuan. Some 17,220 registered bidders took part in the auction for 8,000 plates, the highest quota for this year so far.

Both prices were considerably higher than last week's bids which were standing at 400 yuan before the auction was canceled with just a few minutes to go, the first cancelation since it was launched in 1994.

Although some bidders suspected the call-off was because the prices were too low, police confirmed last Wednesday that hackers were responsible for the auction being aborted.

The Shanghai Communication, Transport and Port Bureau said yesterday that from 10:55am to 11am on July 18, network traffic was 190 times more than usual and close to the limits of the system, which led to many legitimate bidders being unable to take part.

Yesterday's auction, the bureau said, "ran smoothly and the bidding system also operated normally as technical experts stepped up efforts to ensure system security."

About 25,182 people registered for this month's auction and a total of 18,000 bidders logged onto the bidding platform, the bureau said. The lowest bid stayed at 100 yuan for the first 45 minutes before it rapidly rose to 30,000 yuan.

Zhu Junyi, an official from Shanghai Information Center's automotive industry research office, said that last week's cheaper price may have raised bidders' expectations for this week.

"But the final bidding prices are still influenced by a combination of several factors including the number of bidders, auto sales, and prices on the second-hand market," he said, "so the results continued on an upward trend."

Shanghai is the nation's only city to issue car licenses by auction, a policy aimed at limiting traffic levels. But the system has been criticized by some motorists as not being effective in controlling the number of vehicles in the city while placing a high financial burden on them.

Meanwhile, the city government is drafting a new regulation to make the auction system more transparent and accountable.

The first official guideline for the plate auction is expected to include provisions on the disclosure of turnover and how the money is spent, according to attorney Liu Zhengdong, head of Shanghai Bar Association and a deputy to Shanghai People's Congress.


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