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Qualcomm's bid to expand beyond mobile chips hits a roadblock

Is the company getting caught up in the escalating tensions between China and the US?

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng

Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips power many of the world's top smartphones. 


Qualcomm just got through fending off a takeover, but it can't seem to complete its own attempt at an acquisition. 

The San Diego-based mobile chip giant has spent the past year and a half attempting to acquire Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors, which makes chips for the automotive industry and digital networks. The deal is critical to Qualcomm effort to expand beyond its core business of making chips for your smartphones, a healthy business that's beginning to slow. 

That effort hit a snag Thursday after Qualcomm and NXP said they'd withdrawn a request for regulatory approval from China's Ministry of Commerce and will refile the application. Although neither company is based in China, they must secure China's okay. Large companies seeking mergers or acquisitions need approval of countries where they business, largely due to antitrust concerns.

Qualcomm and NXP also jointly filed an extension of their acquisition agreement to July 25, something they have done frequently as the deal's approval continues to lag. 

The move comes amid an escalating trade war between China and US, including tariff increases and US regulatory moves against Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and ZTE. 

Separately, Qualcomm has reportedly begun laying off employees as part of a strategy to cut $1 billion in costs.