Qualcomm to fight EU antitrust charge at November 10 hearing: sources

By Foo Yun Chee | BRUSSELS

U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm will attempt to fend off EU antitrust charges at a hearing on Nov. 10 that it used anti-competitive methods to squeeze out a rival, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The European Commission may take Qualcomm’s arguments at the hearing into account in the case, which could delay the Commission’s decision and possible fine against the company if it is found to have infringed EU antitrust rules.

Qualcomm requested the closed-door hearing nine months after the European Commission accused it of forcing British phone software maker Icera out of the market by selling certain baseband chipsets below cost between 2009 and 2011.

Icera was later acquired by Nvidia Corp.

Participants at antitrust hearings typically include senior officials from the Commission’s competition unit and other relevant departments, officials from national competition authorities, rivals and interested groups.

Qualcomm, which faces a second antitrust charge of making illegal payments to a major customer for exclusively using its chipsets since 2011, did not ask an oral hearing for this case, the people said.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso and Qualcomm, which supplies Android smartphone makers and Apple Inc, declined to comment.

The company could face a fine up to $2.5 billion or 10 percent of its 2015 revenue, if found guilty of breaking EU rules.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman)