Qualcomm pays $975 mln, resolves China antitrust dispute

SAN FRANCISCO/BEIJING (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc has agreed to pay China a fine of $975 million, the largest in the country’s corporate history, ending a 14-month government investigation into anti-competitive practices.

The deal also requires Qualcomm to lower its royalty rates on patents used in China, the U.S. chip-maker said in a statement.

Qualcomm cut its full-year earnings estimate because of the fine, which it said would cost it about 58 cents per share, but it raised the lower end of its revenue forecast slightly.

Investors welcomed the end of the drawn-out investigation, sending Qualcomm’s shares up 1.6 percent to $68.18 in after-hours trading.

“It removes a significant source of uncertainly from our business and really positions our licensing group to really participate in the full growth of the wireless market in China,” Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf told Reuters in a phone interview. “It’s something we’re happy is over.”

Discussions in Beijing over one of the most contentious cases under China’s 2008 anti-monopoly law had intensified in recent weeks, culminating in meetings between Qualcomm senior executives and National Development and Reform Commission officials on Friday.

Under the terms of the agreement, Qualcomm will not dispute China’s finding that it violated the country’s anti-monopoly law, and it will offer licenses to its current 3G and 4G essential Chinese patents - widely used by Chinese device makers - separately from other patents.

As a result of the fine, Qualcomm said it now expects full-year earnings per share of between $3.56 and $3.76 for fiscal 2015, compared with its prior forecast of $4.04 to $4.34.

It raised its fiscal 2015 revenue forecast to a range of $26.3 billion to $28 billion, slightly raising the lower end of its last forecast of $26 billion to $28 billion.

Excluding the cost of the fine and other one-time items, Qualcomm forecast earnings of $4.85 to $5.05 per share, raising the lower end of its previous forecast of $4.75 to $5.05. On that basis, analysts had expected $4.96 per share, on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Qualcomm is just one of several overseas companies, including Microsoft Corp, that have come under investigation in China for allegedly anti-competitive practises. (Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle)