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Qualcomm court ruling is a ‘gut punch’ that could strengthen Huawei



An analyst called a federal court ruling on Qualcomm a “gut punch” against the chipmaker that could also boost Chinese tech giant Huawei’s position in an escalating tech cold war.

Qualcomm’s stock was down more than 10% on Wednesday after a US District court judge ruled that the company violated anti-trust law. The decision was in connection with a case filed by the Federal Trade Commission accusing Qualcomm of anti-competitive practices and charging excessive licensing fees.

The decision creates even more uncertainty in the chip industry which is already reeling from the potential consequences of the Trump administration’s ban on Huawei, said Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives.

“This is a gut punch for Qualcomm and could have a major ripple impact across the smartphone industry,” he told Business Insider. The ruling comes “at a time when the semi space is going through a mini trauma because of the US-China headwinds and the Huawei ban,” he said. “This now adds uncertainty across the semi food chain and is a near term nightmare for Qualcomm and the space in light of the Huawei albatross situation already fanning the flames.”

On the other hand, the ruling could also boost Huawei at a time when it’s been taking blows from the Trump administration, which has blacklisted the Chinese in the US. “Huawei’s back against the wall, black eyes left and right,” Ives said.

But Huawei is a tech powerhouse globally, and the court decision shakes up the competition in an important market: 5G. This refers to the emerging wireless industry technology that’s expected to lead to faster internet connections worldwide.

It is an arena where Huawei and Qualcomm, which is also known for its intellectual property arsenal, are among the fiercest competitors, especially in terms of whose technology will become more dominant. The court decision would force Qualcomm to change the way it licenses and charges royalties for its technology. Their pricing and licensing practices could come under more scrutiny, creating openings for rivals.

“The ruling today dents Qualcomm’s business model,” Ives said. “To what extent is uncertain. In the view of many on the Street, in the 5G race, this hurts Qualcomm’s competitiveness versus the likes of Huawei.”

And in light of the Trump Administration’s moves against Huawei, Ives also said: “This was not a ruling being cheered on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Got a tip about Qualcomm, Huawei or another tech company? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], message him on Twitter@benpimentel, or send him a secure message through Signal at 510.731.8429. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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