Can Huawei Face EU Fines Like Google and Apple?
The European Union’s chief antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, has made her name tackling big corporate fish in pretty unconventional ways. A ruling on Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which came with a seven-figure fine, argued free services weren’t always good for the consumer, while those on Apple Inc. and Starbucks Corp. deemed that low taxes were illegal state aid (though some judges begged to differ).
Officially, the idea is to scrutinize government financing from any country outside the EU that would give companies inside the bloc an unfair advantage.
German robotics firm Kuka AG is now China-owned; Chinese rail powerhouse CRRC is seen by Alstom SA and Siemens AG as a competitive threat; and telecoms-equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. has been accused of profiting from as much as $75 billion in Chinese state aid, according to the Wall Street Journal. (The company denies it.) Back in 2013, then-EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht accused firms including Huawei of anti-competitive behavior driven by access to cheap capital, but plans for an investigation were shelved.
- There’s now an opportunity to try to rebalance the relationship, which will be one of the priorities when Germany takes over the EU presidency in July, according to Eric-Andre Martin of French think tank IFRI.