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Qualcomm set to face second EU antitrust fine shortly - sources

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By Reuters
Qualcomm set to face second EU antitrust fine shortly - sources
FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is pictured at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song   -   Copyright  ALY SONG(Reuters)
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Qualcomm, the world’s no.1 chipmaker, could be hit with a second EU antitrust fine as soon as Thursday for blocking a rival from the market more than a decade ago, people familiar with the matter said.

The company came under fire in 2015 when the European Commission accused it of predatory pricing between 2009 and 2011 aimed at forcing out British phone software maker Icera, now part of Nvidia Corp.

The Commission says Qualcomm sold certain quantities of its UMTS baseband chipsets to two of its customers at below cost to shut Icera out of the market.

The EU competition enforcer, which can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover, could sanction Qualcomm on Thursday, one of the people said, while another said the decision could be pushed into next week.

The Commission fined Qualcomm 997 million euros (£899 million) last year for paying iPhone maker Apple to use only its chips, a tactic aimed at thwarting rivals including Intel.

The Commission and Qualcomm declined to comment.

This could be European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s last sanction against a tech company before her term ends on Oct. 31.

Hefty fines, in particular against U.S. tech giants, have been a hallmark of her five-year run as Europe’s antitrust enforcer, a policy which has earned her the ire of U.S President Donald Trump.

Qualcomm has also been targeted by other enforcers for its business practices. In May, it lost an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission, with the judge issuing a sweeping antitrust ruling against the company.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)