Samsung, Hynix and seven others face EU charges

(REUTERS)

Samsung Electronics, Infineon, Hynix Semiconductor and seven other chipmakers are expected soon to face EU charges of price fixing, four people familiar with the situation said yesterday.

Also to face charges are Micron Technology, Elpida Memory, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya Technology, they said.

"A statement of objections is expected by Friday," one of them said, referring to a charge sheet from the European Commission, the European Union's top antitrust watchdog. A second person said the statement of objections could be sent on Monday.

Infineon said in December last year that the EU antitrust watchdog had opened formal proceedings against the company the previous February on suspicion of anti-competitive practices in the European market for Dram products.

Dynamic random access memory (Dram) chips are used in personal computers, servers, printers, personal digital assistants, mobile phones, game consoles and digital music players.

The people said the companies were expected to settle with the Commission under its new settlement procedure introduced in 2008, possibly making it the first case in which firms admit taking part in a cartel in return for a 10 per cent cut in fines.

The watchdog can levy fines of up to 10 per cent of a company's turnover for breaking EU law.

A formal decision is expected to come from incoming Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who is due to take over from incumbent Neelie Kroes later this month.

South Korean regulators in 2007 dropped an investigation into suspected price-fixing by Samsung Electronics, Micron, Hynix and Infineon.

A Samsung Electronics executive had in April 2007 pleaded guilty to price-fixing in the US government's long-running investigation of the computer memory chip business.

 

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