After nearly a decade of allegedly using its market heft to squelch business opportunities for chief rival Advanced Micro Devices
But now there's potential trouble brewing in the Chinese market, where Intel has steered clear of legal battles over its business practices.
Local PC and smartphone manufacturer Hedy Holding has dropped Intel chips from its entire product catalog, replacing them with AMD products. The move comes after Hedy executives blasted Intel in Chinese media for some interesting business practices:
- Hedy says Intel often ships many more processors than a small manufacturer like Hedy can use. Hedy then turns around and sells the excess chips in Hong Kong for a tidy profit, which makes up for the losses generated by the computer division.
- The company also says Intel evaluates its Chinese system builders on the basis of how many AMD-based systems it sells. Lift the proportion too high, and you're not getting that lucrative excess supply thrown your way.
- System builders are also forced to buy high-end Intel chips they don't want and can't sell, according to Hedy officials. This alleged practice turns Intel's excess processors into someone else's problem: There is little demand for these speedy but expensive chips in China.
The computer market in China is a tough place in which to make a living; Hedy's gross margin last year was 1.6% (yeah, gross margin) and the company made an $11.3 million loss on sales of $87.1 million. It shouldn't be surprising to see Chinese computer vendors turning to lower-priced components from AMD when there's no demand for top-end processors and the profit margins are nonexistent.
Hedy is hardly Lenovo, nor a Chinese Hewlett-Packard
If the allegations are true, I'd say that Intel is working close to the line of legal and ethical business and, you know, not. Is it worth upsetting tons of partners in the world's largest market (by population), or should Intel step away from that blurry line and just do straight business in China from now on? Is Hedy simply overreacting in ways a gweilo wouldn't understand? I don't know, but you can help find the answers in the comments box below.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.