Samsung, Hynix Probed by Chinese Regulator Amid Chip-Price Rally

(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc., two of the world’s biggest chipmakers, said they’re being investigated by China’s government after their U.S. rival Micron Technology Inc. received a similar visit from the country’s regulators.

Investigators from China’s regulatory agency visited Samsung’s Chinese sales offices on May 31, Suwon, South Korea-based company said in an emailed statement. “Samsung is cooperating with Chinese authorities.” Hynix, based in Icheon, South Korea, said separately it is cooperating.

Micron, the largest U.S. maker of computer memory chips, said last week that Chinese authorities visited its offices in that country, potentially opening another front in a growing trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. China is the largest maker for semiconductors yet isn’t home to even one of the top 10 producers of the crucial electronic components. The memory chip market has been increasingly concentrated in the hands of Micron and its two Korean rivals, who have enjoyed record profits from the devices that are essential to everything from supercomputers to smartphones over the last year.

None of the three chipmakers have said publicly what they are being questioned about. South Korean media said China was accusing them of colluding with each other to hike memory chip prices.

“It’s an expression of China’s intention to bring down memory prices,” said Park Kang-ho, an analyst at Daishin Securities Co. “It’ll have some psychological effect, but it’s unlikely to have a serious impact on the share prices.”

China has been spending heavily to boost its domestic supply of semiconductors, buying chipmaking equipment from South Korea. Its companies such as Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. compete with Samsung in the global smartphone market, while the Korean company is struggling to regain its momentum with its phone sales in the Chinese market.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.