Intel faces new antitrust charges in Europe

Analysis

European regulators are preparing to file new antitrust charges against Intel Corp, expanding a probe into the chipmaker’s marketing and sales practices, The Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The new charges, which could be brought as soon as Thursday, would allege that the world’s top chipmaker gave major European retailers inducements not to sell computers that use chips from smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc, the people told the paper.

Last year, the European Commission in Brussels charged Intel with selling chips below cost and offering customers huge rebates in an illegal attempt to drive AMD out of the market. AMD has long accused Intel of abusing its dominance of the $280 billion chip market and filed its own lawsuit against Intel in 2005.

Intel’s microprocessors, the electronic brains of personal computers -- power over 80% of the world’s PCs. The potential new charges from European regulators would be another blow to Intel, which last month said it faces a formal investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. “We are continuing to cooperate and really don’t know what the commission will do,” Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy told the Journal, when asked about the possibility of new charges. “We believe we operate within the law.”

A spokesman for EU Antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes told the paper the Intel probe is “ongoing”. Intel and European antitrust regulation officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The company also faces similar investigations elsewhere. The New York state attorney general opened a formal probe of Intel in January to determine if it broke state antitrust laws by trying to squeeze out AMD. In June, the Korea Fair Trade Commission in Seoul ruled Intel had abused its dominant position in the local market and imposed a fine of $25.6 million.

Intel said it would almost certainly appeal. Japan’s trade commission also concluded in 2005 that Intel had violated that country’s anti-monopoly act. Intel said it disagreed with the findings, but accepted the commission’s recommendation, a move that allowed it to avoid a trial. (Reuters)

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