Intel's Wild Wednesday

What a wild day for Intel: Investors awoke to read a Financial Times Germany article claiming that the European Commission was on the verge of finding Intel guilty of anti-competitive behavior and ready to levy a staggering $4.1 billion fine against the world's largest chipmaker.

The news grabbed headlines all over the globe since a ruling by the EU was thought to be months away.

And the trouble is, the story appears to be false. And if that weren't troubling enough, there are rumblings as to where the story may have come from.

A source close to Intel tells me today that the EU story this morning smacks of another breaking news story the FTG uncovered a couple of years back, purporting a supposed investigation into Intel by the German competition cartel. There was no investigation.

But a few days later, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices called on the cartel to launch an investigation, which it was compelled to do because it was asked to.

Flash forward to today's "news," which comes from the FTG's office in Hamburg, not all that close to the EU's offices in Brussels. Nonetheless, as the story goes, the story goes.

It can't be ignored that the last plant in the world that AMD manufactures microprocessors in is in nearby Dresden, Germany. I'm not saying the story came from there, but these coincidences ought not be ignored.

I say this not just because of what a source at Intel tells me he suspects, but because of the harsh criticism leveled against the FTG by the EU itself.

The EU took the unusual step of reacting strongly to the FTG coverage. I'm told officials went ballistic.

"There is no provisional or internal decision on this case. The investigation is very much active and ongoing," EU competition spokesman Jonathan Todd told a regular briefing, according to Reuters.

Reuters reports, that in an unusually sharp rebuttal, Todd said the article was misleading and was an example of "irresponsible journalism."

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy told Reuters on Tuesday: "To the best of our knowledge, no decision has been made. We continue to work with the Commission to attempt to convince them that our business practices are well within the law."

Meantime, it appears that while Intel continues to try to explain itself away to the EU, the FTG may want to try some of the same methods with Intel shareholders.

Questions? Comments?