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Qualcomm Hit With $1 Billion Dollar Fine

Taiwan has hit smartphone chip maker Qualcomm with a billion dollar fine for alleged antitrust violations over how it prices its chips and patents.

Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission fined Qualcomm USD $773 million claiming that the Company has been unfairly licensing its patents and violating antitrust rules for at least 7 years.

Qualcomm is under siege from a number of regulators around the world as well as some of its biggest partners — like Apple — over its alleged monopolistic tactics. Similar to the Taiwan case, many investigations have focused on Qualcomm’s lucrative licensing business, which enables the company to collect fees on nearly every modern phone in the world. Historically, around two-thirds of the company’s profit has come from licensing its technology. In 2016, Qualcomm’s licensing business delivered around 80% of its profits.

Qualcomm has received similar fines from China and South Korean. Last year, South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined the company $853 million. In 2015, a Chinese regulator fined it $975 million. The United State Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating the company as well.

“Qualcomm’s track record on regulatory issues (US FTC, KFTC, and now Taiwan) continues its clean sweep of losses, and the prospect of business model changes or contracts renegotiations is never comforting, even in a small market like Taiwan,” wrote Bernstein Research analyst Stacy Rasgon in a note.

“Qualcomm disagrees with the decision summarized in the TFTC’s press release and intends to seek to stay any required behavioral measures and appeal the decision to the Taiwanese courts after receiving the TFTC’s formal decision, which is expected in the next several weeks,” Qualcomm said in a statement. “The fine bears no rational relationship to the amount of Qualcomm’s revenues or activities in Taiwan, and Qualcomm will appeal the amount of the fine and the method used to calculate it.”

In the midst of this regulatory action, the company is also facing a high-stakes lawsuit from one of its largest customers, Apple, over its licensing tactics. Apple will likely use this loss in Taiwan as evidence of Qualcomm’s wrongdoing.

One positive aspect of the Taiwan ruling, though, is that it finally provides some clarity into the investigation, which has been ongoing since early 2015, Rasgon said.

Qualcomm’s stock is down more than 17% since the beginning of the year, but is up almost half a percent since this morning following the Taiwan fine announcement.

It’s still unclear, however, what the potential impact the Taiwan ruling could have on Qualcomm’s business in the country, which accounts for 12% of its revenue last year. With the fine, the Taiwanese regulator is asking for contract renegotiations.

“It’s pretty clear the world is stacking up against Qualcomm,” Rasgon said. “They’ve lost every case against them so far.”

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