U.S. Confirms Antitrust Probe In Memory Chip Industry

By Agence France-Presse U.S. prosecutors said June 19 they were pursuing an antitrust investigation into the global computer memory chip industry, sending top stocks tumbling worldwide. "I can confirm that the antitrust division is conducting an investigation into the industry," said U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona. Technology shares in Asia, Europe and the United States took a hit from the news that U.S. investigators had contacted major manufacturers Micron Technology Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Infineon Technologies AG. Micron Technology, a leading U.S. maker of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips, said it had received a grand jury subpoena as part of an industry-wide probe. Micron said it would cooperate with the antitrust investigation after receiving the documents from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. "Micron does not believe it has violated U.S. antitrust laws," Micron Vice President of corporate affairs Kipp Bedard said in a statement. "The DRAM business is highly competitive and subject to extreme volatility. Competitive forces in today's market have led to DRAM prices reaching unprecedented lows." South Korea's Samsung Electronics confirmed in Seoul that its U.S. operation had been notified of an industry-wide antitrust investigation into manufacturers of DRAMs. In Europe, German semiconductor group Infineon Technologies said it too had been contacted by the U.S. Justice Department. "At this time it is not known if Infineon is being investigated or just requested to provide information," a spokesman said in Munich, confirming however that Infineon was aware of the investigation. Separately, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was suing U.S. computer chip maker Rambus Inc. for antitrust violations, accusing it of engaging "in a pattern of anticompetitive acts and practices." Rambus, based in Los Altos, Calif., was accused of withholding key data from an industry standards group. "The conduct at issue here has done substantial harm to important technology markets, and threatens to undermine participation in industry standard-setting activities more generally," said Joseph Simons, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition. The complaint was unrelated to the Justice Department's industry-wide investigation, an FTC spokesman said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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