EU regulators close Qualcomm antitrust probe

Regulators from the European Union shut down a four-year antitrust probe into Qualcomm's WCDMA licensing practices. The regulators at the European Commission, the EU's regulatory arm, said the companies that had lodged complaints against Qualcomm for charging excessive royalties on patents had withdrawn their complaints.

In closing the investigation, the EU did not charge Qualcomm with a fine or clear the chip maker of wrongdoing.

"All complainants have now withdrawn or indicated their intention to withdraw their complaints," the European Commission said in a statement. "In view of this, the commission doesn't consider it appropriate to invest further resources in this case."

The investigation was prompted by complaints in 2005 from six companies--Broadcom, Ericsson, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Texas Instruments--that Qualcomm's high royalty rates were inhibiting competition in the chip market. Qualcomm said in a statement that it was "extremely pleased" with the decision to close to investigation, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement, Ericsson said that it would "continue its ongoing dialogue with competition authorities around the world in relation to Qualcomm's licensing practices. Ericsson's goal remains the same: To ensure a robust, enforceable and fair IPR regime for standards, particularly those relating to 3G and 4G wireless technologies."

Earlier this year, South Korean antitrust regulators fined Qualcomm $208 million for engaging in "unfair" business practices related to its chipset sales. Separately, Japanese antitrust regulators slapped the company with a cease and desist order, and told Qualcomm that it had to revise its licensing deals with Japanese handset makers.

Qualcomm's stock remained relatively unchanged on the news, hovering at around $45 per share. UBS analyst Maynard Um wrote in a note to investors that the move could free up Qualcomm to use its cash to repurchase shares or raise its dividend.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Ericsson release

Related Articles:
After a quarter of declines, Qualcomm promises growth
Japanese regulators order Qualcomm to revise licensing deals
Qualcomm roughed up by lower profits, $208M Korean antitrust fine