(Adds Qualcomm comment)
BRUSSELS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators have approved U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm's planned $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors subject to a series of commitments Qualcomm has made.
Qualcomm said the European Union clearance, along with approval earlier on Thursday from the Korea Fair Trade Commission, meant it now had eight of nine approvals, with just China remaining. It said it was optimistic that would come soon.
Qualcomm, which supplies chips to Android smartphone makers and Apple, is set to become the leading supplier to the fast-growing automotive chip market following the deal, the largest-ever in the semiconductor industry
The European Commission, which oversees competition policy in the 28-nation EU, said in a statement on Thursday it had identified a number of competition concerns that had led to an in-depth investigation, but was now satisfied with the deal.
"We use our smartphones for many different things and now also more and more as mobile wallets, to pay for public transport or make other secure payments," said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager
"With this decision, we ensure that Qualcomm's takeover of NXP will not prevent consumers from continuing to enjoy the benefits of these innovative technologies at competitive prices."
The EU's concerns had included the interoperability of the merged group's chips with rivals' products and significant intellectual property related to NFC (near-field communication) technology.
Qualcomm has committed to offer licences to NXP's MIFARE technology and trademarks for an eight-year period on terms at least as advantageous as today. MIFARE is a technology used as a ticketing/fare collection platform.
Qualcomm will ensure that for eight years it will provide the same level of interoperability between its chip sets and corresponding products of other companies.
Qualcomm will also not acquire NXP's standard essential NFC patents as well as some of NXP's non-standard essential NFC patents. These would be transferred to a third party that would be bound to grant worldwide royalty-free licences to them for three years.
Of NXP's non-standard essential NFC patents that Qualcomm did acquire, it would not enforce its rights against other companies and grant royalty-free licences to these patents.
"The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The Commission's decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments," the Commission said in a statement. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Gareth Jones)