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U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday blocked microchip maker Broadcom Ltd’s proposed takeover of Qualcomm Inc over fears of Chinese dominance of 5G mobile communications.
The presidential order reflected a calculation that the United States’ lead in creating technology and setting standards for the next generation of mobile cell phone communications would be lost to China if Singapore-based Broadcom took over San Diego-based Qualcomm, according to a White House official.
Qualcomm has emerged as one of the biggest competitors to China’s Huawei Technologies Co in the sector, making Qualcomm a prized asset.
Qualcomm had earlier rebuffed Broadcom’s $117 billion bid, which was under investigation by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a multi-agency panel led by the Treasury Department that reviews the national security implications of acquisitions of U.S. corporations by foreign companies.
In a letter on March 5, CFIUS said it was investigating whether Broadcom would starve Qualcomm of research dollars that would allow it to compete and also cited the risk of Broadcom’s relationship with“third party foreign entities.”
While it did not identify those entities, the letter repeatedly described Qualcomm as the leading company in so-called 5G technology development and standard setting.
“A shift to Chinese dominance in 5G would have substantial negative national security consequences for the United States,” CFIUS said.
“While the United States remains dominant in the standards-setting space currently, China would likely compete robustly to fill any void left by Qualcomm as a result of this hostile takeover.”
A White House official on Monday confirmed that the national security concerns related to the risks of Broadcom’s relationship with third party foreign entities.
A source familiar with CFIUS’ thinking had said that, if the deal was completed, the U.S. military was concerned that within 10 years,“there would essentially be a dominant player in all of these technologies and that’s essentially Huawei, and then the American carriers would have no choice. They would just have to buy Huawei (equipment).”
Huawei has been forging closer commercial ties with big telecom operators across Europe and Asia, putting it in prime position to lead the global race for 5G networks despite U.S. concerns.
Huawei has a dominant position in China, which is set to become the world’s biggest 5G market by far, and has also made inroads in the rest of world to compete with rivals such as Ericsson and Nokia in several lucrative markets, including countries that are longstanding U.S. allies.