FTC makes second request on Broadcom's bid for Qualcomm

(Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has made a second request for information on chipmaker Broadcom Ltd’s (AVGO.O) $103 billion hostile bid for Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), Broadcom said in a statement on Friday, a move that could indicate heightened antitrust scrutiny.

The FTC review is part of a process under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act to scrutinize potentially anti-competitive mergers. The vast majority of deals reviewed by the FTC and the Department of Justice are allowed to proceed after the first preliminary review, according to the FTC’s website.

However, if a second request is issued, companies must provide more information to the FTC. As part of its defense against Broadcom, Qualcomm has argued that any deal faces a long antitrust review.

Broadcom said that it had anticipated the second request as a normal part of the regulatory approval process.

“This signifies that Broadcom is moving into the next stage of the U.S. antitrust review process,” Broadcom said in a statement.

Deals that get a second FTC request for information often do so because of their complexity and size, and a potential acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom could still subsequently be approved, according to sources who asked not to be named because the matter is private.

FILE PHOTO: A sign on the Qualcomm campus is seen, as chip maker Broadcom Ltd announced an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Reuters reported on the second request earlier on Friday. Qualcomm declined to comment, while the FTC did not respond to a request for comment.

Broadcom said this week that a separate FTC review of its client relationships is immaterial to its operations, does not relate to its wireless business and has no impact on its proposal to acquire Qualcomm.

Broadcom has said it is very confident it can complete the Qualcomm deal within 12 months of signing an agreement, while Qualcomm has said that the regulatory review processes required around the world would take much longer.

A deal that Qualcomm has in the works, its proposed $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors (NXPI.O), was approved by EU antitrust regulators this week. Only China has yet to approve this deal, something expected in the next two weeks, according to one of the sources.

The NXP deal still faces an uncertain future because some NXP shareholders have asked for Qualcomm to raise its offer.

Broadcom has offered to pay $60 per share in cash and $10 per share of its own stock for Qualcomm. To put pressure on Qualcomm, Broadcom has put forward 11 board director nominees to replace Qualcomm’s board. Qualcomm shareholders are scheduled to vote on these directors in March.

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman

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Canada's Hydro Quebec unable to meet demand from digital currency miners

MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada’s largest utility, Hydro Quebec, is reviewing its commercial energy strategy after being inundated with demand from global digital currency miners rushing to the province to benefit from political stability and low energy prices.

Hydro Quebec will not have the long-term capacity to meet all the anticipated demand, a company spokesman said, after the utility’s potential mining projects more than doubled in a week to 70.

Bitcoin mining consumes large quantities of energy because it uses computers to solve complex math puzzles to validate transactions in the cryptocurrency, which are written to the blockchain, or digital ledger.

The first miner to solve the problem is rewarded in bitcoin and the transaction is added to the blockchain.

Expectations of a crackdown in China, one of the world’s biggest sources of cryptocurrency mining, on the sector has made energy-rich Quebec an attractive site for companies, and its chief executive is now receiving queries on his Linkedin profile.

Bitmain Technologies, operator of some of the largest mining farms in China, is among the companies searching for sites in Quebec. Others include Japan’s GMO Internet Inc (9449.T), but it has not yet taken a decision on whether to start operations in the province, a source familiar with the matter said. A GMO company spokeswoman declined to comment.

“We are receiving dozens of demands each day. This context is prompting us to clearly define our strategy,” said Hydro Quebec spokesman Marc-Antoine Pouliot by phone.

“We won’t be able to power all the projects that we’re receiving,” he said, while stressing that Hydro Quebec is not automatically refusing entrepreneurs. “This is evolving very rapidly so we have to be prudent.”

Hydro is also keen on attracting data centers, which generate more employment than bitcoin mines.

According to Hydro Quebec, the province estimates it will have an energy surplus equivalent to 100 terawatt hours over the next 10 years. One terawatt hour powers 60,000 homes in Quebec during a year.

A shortage of sites in Quebec with the necessary electric capacity has prompted several entrepreneurs to break down their projects into smaller investments, said Laurent Feral-Pierssens, executive director, emerging technologies at KPMG Canada.

“This is the tip of the iceberg, as only a fraction of the initiatives have reached out to Hydro Quebec yet,” said Feral-Pierssens, who works with digital currency miners that want to open operations in the province.

Reporting By Allison Lampert; Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Denny Thomas and Susan Thomas

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Amazon Joins Growing List of Employers That Won’t Ask About Your Salary History

Will this be the year we finally make progress in closing the gender pay gap?

It’s only the middle of January, but 2018 has already seen the implementation of new laws and policies that have the potential to boost women’s paychecks. The latest news comes from Amazon, which this week banned its hiring managers from asking prospective hires about their salary histories, according to BuzzFeed.

The tech giant follows in the footsteps of companies like Google, Facebook, and Cisco, which earlier this month were legally banned from posing the question to potential employees in California, thanks to a new law that took effect on Jan. 1. Though the law technically applies only to those who work in the Golden State, most have proactively applied the law to all of their U.S. hires. Massachusetts, Oregon, Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco have passed similar laws over the past couple of years—though Amazon’s home state of Washington has yet to do so.

Also this week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order banning state agencies—though not private companies—from asking the controversial question. (The rule takes effect on Feb. 1). New York, Delaware, New Orleans, Pittsburg, and Albany already have similar laws in effect.

While such laws technically apply to a specific jurisdiction, they may have a broader effect. Rather than creating a different set of policies for various cities and states, some companies simply use the strictest set of employment laws as the benchmark for the entire company’s human resources policies. This may explain why major employers like Amazon, which has half a million workers across the country, are opting to embrace a blanket rule.

Many of the policy changes are being positioned as efforts to fight the pay gap that plagues women and people of color. In Gov. Murphy’s statement accompanying the executive order, he called the policy, “the first meaningful step towards gender equity and fighting the gender pay gap.”

In 2016, women made about 80 cents on a man’s dollar, a number that has remained mostly stagnant. The gap is wider for women of color and has been growing for Millennial women. One of the reasons for this, says Andrea Johnson, senior counsel for state policy at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), is the salary history question, which “forces women to carry pay discrimination with them from job to job.”

Johnson calls the efforts to ban the question “exciting,” but notes that such laws are just one piece of the puzzle. Her organization is currently focused on pushing for pay transparency laws, which have already gone into effect in Iceland and the U.K. An Obama-era effort to collect salary information via EEO-1 forms—which must be filled out by any company with 100 or more—has been rolled back under the current administration. The NWLC is one of the dozens of civil rights groups challenging that decision.

Without the support of the federal government, companies’ embrace of policies that advance fair pay—such as Amazon’s move to ban the salary history question and Citigroup’s recent decision to share pay data—are especially important and powerful. Says Johnson: “It’s harder to de-bias minds and easier to de-bias processes.”

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