Intel faces S Korean sales probe

Semiconductor maker Intel is facing a probe into its sales practices in South Korea, echoing similar inquiries in Europe and Japan.

Intel revealed it was co-operating with the country’s Fair Trade Commission which has requested documents relating to marketing and rebate schemes.

Earlier this year the firm was rebuked for violating antitrust laws in Japan, and is also under scrutiny by Brussels.

Intel has an 80% share of the market for microprocessors in South Korea.

South Korean regulators are examining whether sales arrangements Intel operated with local PC manufacturers were anti-competitive.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Intel said that it had been asked to hand over documents by the end of the month.

“The probe is in line with similar investigations in Japan and the European Union,” a spokesman at South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, which enforces competition law, told Reuters.

“We’re investigating whether Intel is unfairly using its dominant position in the market.”

A similar inquiry by Japanese regulators earlier this year found that Intel offered rebates to Japanese firms if they agreed to restrict the number of chips bought from rivals including Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Intel subsequently agreed to stop the practice although it stated that it did not agree with the facts in the case.

AMD is suing Intel in the US claiming that it has used anti-competitive measures to maintain its market dominance. Intel denies the charges.

Investigators have been looking into Intel’s sales practices in Europe since 2001 and last month raided a number of Intel offices.

Analysts said the latest inquiry was unlikely to affect Intel’s dominant position in South Korea, where it control 80% of microchip sales.

“Demand for Intel chips is firm and won’t be affected by the investigation,” said Kim Ik-sang, an analyst at CJ Investment & Securities.

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