By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, April 22 Infineon Technologies
, Philips and several other chipmakers could
face fines after European competition regulators said they may
have colluded to fix prices for chips used in mobile SIM cards,
passports and bank cards.
The European Commission said it sent documents setting out
its concerns to companies it suspected of behaving like a cartel
in the market for smart card chips, which are also used in pay
television systems and identity cards.
It did not identify the companies, but Germany's Infineon
and Dutch company Philips confirmed they had received the
statement of objections.
Philips said the 90-page EU document it was sent referred to
allegations of wrongdoing in the years 2003 and 2004. Since then
it has sold its semiconductor business.
The companies would face fines of up to 10 percent of their
global revenue if the accusations are proven.
The Commission said it had issued the charge sheet after
talks with the companies to settle the case broke down. During
the talks, it said, the companies were offered a 10 percent
reduction in fines if they admitted taking part in a cartel.
The case began in January 2009 with raids on companies in
several EU countries. The firms can ask for a closed-door
hearing to defend themselves before EU antitrust officials and
national competition regulators.
NXP Semiconductors and France-based
STMicroelectronics, both of which had previously said
they were under investigation, said on Monday they had not
received the EU document.
Gemalto, the world's largest maker of smart cards,
said it was not a target of the investigation.
Atmel Corp previously said it was cooperating with
the investigation, while Renesas Technology - a joint venture
between Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Electric -
has confirmed the regulatory raids.