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EU Probes Intel's European Offices

UPDATED: European Commission regulators launched early-morning investigations of several of Intel's European offices Tuesday, as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation into the world's largest chipmaker.

Intel spokesman Chuck Molloy confirmed that investigators this morning called on four Intel offices in Milan, Madrid, Munich and Swindon, located in the U.K.

The raids come in the wake of AMD's June 27 antitrust complaint against Intel in U.S. federal district court. The suit accused the company of unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in the x86 microprocessor market by shunting customers away from AMD.

AMD seized on the investigations.

Thomas McCoy, AMD executive vice president, legal affairs and chief administrative officer, told internetnews.com: "This is a pretty bold statement by [the EU] that says we see a market failure that's hurting innovation, and that we are going to be aggressive in protecting our consumers. What's important to us at AMD is that [the rulings in Japan] and this action in Europe proves our contention that Intel's monopoly is hurting innovation and that it's a worldwide problem. We're not just a competitor whining."

McCoy did concede EU officials are only investigating at this point and haven't determined any misdeeds by Intel to date.

When asked about the timing of the investigation, Chuck Molloy told internetnews.com that Intel has been cooperating with EU officials regarding its antitrust probe for four years. Intel has met with commission officials scores of times, he said, and handed over literally tens of thousands of pages of documents.

Molloy had no comment on why the EU felt it necessary to launch an early-morning investigation of the Intel offices.

"Intel has a very long history of cooperating with regulators, including the staff of the EU," he said. "We have been cooperating with the EU in this current probe for more than four years. During this period we have provided the staff with tens of thousands of documents and in hundreds of thousands of hours of meetings and interviews. We will continue to cooperate with the staff of the commission," he said.

"We also believe our practices are both fair and lawful."

Intel also faces a similar probe in Japan. On June 30, AMD Japan filed two claims against Intel's Japanese subsidiary for violating Japan's Antimonopoly Act, just days after the company filed a suit in the U.S. against the top chipmaker for forcing customers to pick its chips.

It filed the suits against Intel K.K. in two separate Tokyo courts, said the No. 2 chipmaker in a statement. The suit in the Tokyo High Court seeks $50 million, stemming from the Japan Fair Trade Commission's (JFTC) findings that Intel K.K. breached the Antimonopoly Act.

AMD said the U.S. litigation follows a recent ruling from the JFTC on March 8, which found that Intel abused its monopoly power to exclude fair and open competition, violating Section 3 of Japan's Antimonopoly Act.

"These findings reveal that Intel deliberately engaged in illegal business practices to stop AMD's increasing market share by imposing limitations on Japanese PC manufacturers. Intel did not contest these charges," the company said. "We have illustrated specifics of Intel's anti-competitive abuses in our 48-page antitrust complaint," McCoy said in his statement. "We are sure that today's dawn raids will yield even more insight into Intel's antitrust violations."

An EU spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

A spokesman for Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, said in a statement reported in the Financial Times: "I can confirm that Commission officials accompanied by officials from national competition authorities have conducted on-site investigations at several premises of Intel Corporation in Europe, as well as a number of IT firms manufacturing or selling computers."

David Needle contributed to this story.