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Qualcomm CEO says tension with China is stalling NXP deal, but he's optimistic the mood will change

Key Points
  • Qualcomm is waiting on approval for Chinese regulators to merge with Dutch rival NXP Semiconductors.
  • China's is the last of nine approvals needed and has already caused the companies to withdraw and refile their application to buy more time.
  • CEO Steve Mollenkopf was optimistic that "real talks going on between Washington and Beijing" would work to Qualcomm's benefit.
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Qualcomm CEO: We still expect NXP deal approval

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said China-U.S. tensions are stalling big deals, but that could change in time to finalize an NXP tie-up.

"This is not a great environment for big deals to get done at this time," Mollenkopf told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Thursday. "But in 90 days, it can be very, very different."

The leading U.S. semiconductor company is waiting on approval from Chinese regulators to merge with Dutch rival NXP Semiconductors. China's is the last of nine approvals needed and has already caused the companies to withdraw and refile their application to buy more time.

"I think it'd be a very unusual situation for the rest of the world to approve something and then China not do it," Mollenkopf said. "It's a good situation for China to get this deal done, and you know I have confidence that that'll happen."

Qualcomm has been caught in the crossfires of growing trade tensions between the China and U.S. The semiconductor industry is considered the tech sector most exposed to potential regulatory action.

Mollenkopf was optimistic that "real talks going on between Washington and Beijing" would work to Qualcomm's benefit.

"Real discussions oftentimes lead to settlements and lead to a conclusion of hostilities, and I think that's likely to be the case here. We don't know when, but we're prepared either way."