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Intel fined in S Korea for antitrust breach

06 июня 2008

South Korea’s antitrust watchdog fined Intel, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, Won26bn ($25m) for abusing its dominant market position in the country and offering discounts to two Korean PC makers in a bid to drive rival Advanced Micro Devices out of the market.

Thursday’s ruling by Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, which followed a three-year investigation, is being closely watched by regulators conducting similar antitrust probes against Intel in the US and Europe.

The Korean regulator said it found that the US chip giant offered a combined $370m to Samsung Electronics and Trigem Computer between 2001 and 2005 on condition that the local PC makers did not buy microprocessors from AMD.

“We took appropriate steps based on facts,” Baek Yong-ho, chairman at the Korean Fair Trade Commission. “Intel stifled competition, using its dominant position.”

The Korean regulator said AMD could not possibly win the price war with Intel, even if its central processing unit chips were offered free, given the scale of Intel’s rebates. It added that limited competition forced Korean consumers to buy PCs at higher prices.

Intel had a market share of more than 90 per cent in the country in 2001-2005, higher than its global share of 80 per cent, the regulator said.

Intel said it was “disappointed” with the regulator’s ruling and could appeal.

“We feel the commission has overlooked or ignored key evidence that demonstrates Intel's business practices have been lawful and pro-competitive,” it said. ”Once we've reviewed the findings in detail, it is possible that Intel will request a further review and, if necessary, an appeal which will permit a court to review the case independently.”

AMD said: “The KFTC’s decision . . . continues a stark pattern: in every country around the world where Intel’s business practices have been investigated, antitrust regulators have taken action against Intel to protect consumers and the computer companies who serve them.”

New York’s attorney-general launched an antitrust probe into Intel’s activities in January following similar inquiries in the European Union and Japan. The European Commission alleged in July that Intel had offered chips below cost price and given substantial rebates to PC makers to encourage them to buy its chips.

Japan’s competition watchdog issued a cease-and-desist order against Intel in 2005 for violating antitrust laws as Intel offered discounts to five Japanese PC makers.

Thursday’s ruling against Intel underlines the South Korean regulator’s closer scrutiny of global technology companies.

The Korean Fair Trade Commission has previously fined Microsoft Won33bn for abusing its dominant market position and ordered the US company to unbundled its operating system. It is now looking into the business practices of Qualcomm to see if the US wireless chipmaker abused its market dominance to charge excessive royalties.

Mr Baek said: “Whether it is a multinational company or a Korean company, we will sternly punish them for unfair practices. We want to create a market environment to foster competition so that consumers can get the benefits.”

Источник: Financial Times

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