SAN FRANCISCO — Antitrust regulators in the European Union and South Korea cleared Qualcomm's proposed $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors, leaving only China standing in the way.

To obtain clearance from the European Commission (EC) and the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), Qualcomm agreed to exclude some near-field communication patents from the deal and ensure that NXP licenses those patents to third parties. Qualcomm also agreed not to assert the NFC patents it will acquire and maintain interoperability between NFC chips and baseband chipsets offered by Qualcomm competitors. In addition, Qualcomm said it will continue to license NXP's MIFARE contactless payment technology on terms commensurate with those currently offered by NXP.

Steve Mollenkopf
Steve Mollenkopf

While Qualcomm welcomed the approvals of the EC and KFTC, the biggest regulatory hurdle facing the deal — the investigation by China's Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) — remains ongoing. Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a press statement that Qualcomm is "optimistic that China will expeditiously grant [the acquisition's] clearance."

In addition to waiting for Mofcom approval, Qualcomm's bid has still yet to be accepted by NXP shareholders. As of last week, when Qualcomm once again extended its $38 billion tender offer, less than 2 percent of NXP shares had been tendered and not withdrawn, far short of the threshold of 80 percent required to close the deal.

Analysts have speculated that Qualcomm will probably need to raise its bid to acquire NXP. Qualcomm's bid to acquire NXP for $110 per share represented a premium over NXP's stock price when it was originally made Oct. 27, 2016. However, NXP's share price had risen to $120 per share by Thursday (Jan. 18). 

— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.

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