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EU Reopens Intel Inquiry as AMD Bolsters Antitrust Claim

June 09, 2004|From Bloomberg News

European Union regulators reopened an investigation into Intel Corp., the world's largest semiconductor maker, after Advanced Micro Devices Inc. provided more evidence that the company was breaking antitrust rules.

Regulators sent a new round of "fact-finding" letters to chip and computer companies after rejecting earlier claims in February 2002, European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres told reporters in Brussels.

The investigation was restarted after AMD offered new information to bolster claims that Intel gave illegal rebates and threatened companies that used rival products.

AMD has failed to win more than 20% of the market for the chips that power personal computers and servers to run websites, while Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., controls 80%.

The latest probe is at a "preliminary stage," said Torres of the European Commission.

Hans-Juergen Werner, a spokesman for Intel in Germany, said the company was cooperating in the probe. Intel has not changed its business practices because the commission earlier said there was no case, he said.

Intel rose 24 cents to $28.99 on Nasdaq. Shares of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD rose 38 cents to $16.18 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In its original complaint to the commission in 2001, AMD accused Intel of offering illegal marketing rebates, selectively disclosing technical information and threatening circuit board makers that used rival products.

The commission, the EU's regulatory arm, said in February 2002 there was not sufficient evidence to pursue a case against Intel, the complaint was unfounded and no further action would be taken on the basis of the evidence presented. AMD rejected that assessment and did not withdraw the complaint.

Restarting the case "is a step forward toward free and more open competition across Europe in a critical sector of the computer industry," said Jens Drews, a spokesman for AMD.

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