China regulator says Qualcomm case to be settled soon

BEIJING: The Chinese government said it will soon settle its antitrust investigation of US mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s anti-monopoly regulator which launched a probe of the San Diego-based company 13 months ago, said the case would be settled lawfully, according to an online statement.

The notice cited Xu Kunlin, director general of NDRC’s anti-monopoly bureau.

The commission also said it had completed its seventh round of discussions with Qualcomm president Derek Aberle and his team earlier this month.

Qualcomm would continue to cooperate with the regulator to reach a settlement, the NDRC statement said. A company spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The regulator provided no indication as to when discussions with the US chipmaker would resume.

The NDRC said in February that Qualcomm was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless communication standards.

An imminent decision in the case is expected to force the company to pay fines potentially exceeding US$1bil and require concessions that would hurt its highly profitable business of charging licensing fees on phone chipsets that use its patents.

The NDRC said in August that Qualcomm had expressed its willingness to improve and correct pricing issues.

At least 30 foreign firms, including Qualcomm, have come under the scrutiny of China’s 2008 anti-monopoly law, which some critics say is being used to unfairly target non-Chinese companies.

US President Barack Obama pressed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during talks in November on the use of Chinese antitrust policy to limit royalty fees for foreign companies.

While Western business lobbies had criticised China’s use of its antitrust law earlier this year, the elevation of the controversy to the level of presidential talks indicated that it had become a centrepiece of commercial friction between the world’s two largest economies.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs last month that opportunities in China remained far greater than the challenges, in a meeting on the sidelines of the World Internet Conference.

Jacobs said the company was having “difficult discussions” with the regulator to find a “win-win solution”. — Reuters

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