China wrecks US chipmaker Qualcomm's $43 billion plan to buy rival

Qualcomm has dropped its bid to buy chipmaker NXP Semiconductors after failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval. The US giant appears to be the latest victim of a bitter global trade spat.

US computer chip maker Qualcomm on Thursday walked away from its $43 billion (€36.8 billion) bid to acquire Dutch rival NXP, after it failed to win approval from Chinese antitrust authorities.

"Qualcomm River Holdings has terminated its previously announced cash tender offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of NXP," the company said in a statement, referring to a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm.

The San Diego-headquartered firm had applied for Beijing's anti-monopoly review of the takeover before trade tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated, over complaints that China steals or forces foreign companies to hand over technology.

Chinese approval was needed because the country accounted for nearly two-thirds of Qualcomm's revenue last year.

ead more: WTO warns Trump trade war risks 'millions of jobs'

China a key market

A revised application was submitted in April after China's commerce ministry said the bid faced unspecified difficulties satisfying competition concerns.

The second bid expired at midnight Eastern time (03:59 UTC Thursday) without any comment from China's regulators.

The lack of approval, after US and European regulators gave their go-ahead, has been widely interpreted as Beijing using the case as leverage in its spiraling dispute with Washington.

Read more: Qualcomm hit with €1-billion EU antitrust fine

But a commerce ministry spokesman denied those tensions affected the proposed merger and sidestepped questions about its fate.

"The issue with the case is related to anti-monopoly law enforcement and has nothing to do with China-US trade frictions," spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a weekly press briefing on Thursday.

Qualcomm said it would pay NXP a $2 billion dollar break-up fee. Its board has also authorized a $30 billion stock repurchase plan.

Biggest ever chip deal

The tie-up, which was first announced in October 2016, just days before Trump was elected to the White House, would have been the biggest ever semiconductor takeover.

Qualcomm also raised its bid — from $110 to $127 a share — in February, to the irritation of fellow chipmaker Broadcom, which itself recently had a hostile bid for Qualcomm blocked by the White House, amid concerns a tie-up would help Chinese competitors during the roll out of 5G super fast wireless internet infrastructure.

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Trump blocks Qualcomm takeover

The NXP deal would have given Qualcomm, the dominant smartphone chipmaker, a broader array of products including sensors and microprocessors for connected "internet of things" devices.

Based in the Dutch town of Eindhoven, NXP is a former division of electronic giant Philips, and is now a leading maker of chips for the auto industry, as well as for contactless payment systems.

mm/tr (AFP, AP, Reuters)