The fines might be upto $8 billion:

Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology - the world's top-3 DRAM vendors - could be fined up to US$8 billion in China over alleged price fixing, according to industry sources.

DRAM prices have been rising since 2017, putting pressure on China-based smartphone vendors' profitability. The issue has already drawn the attention of China's Anti-Monopoly Bureau of Ministry of Commerce, which met with Samsung to express its concern in December 2017. Nevertheless, such intervention did not stop DRAM prices from rising further in the first quarter of 2018, the sources indicated.

In May 2018, the Chinese antitrust regulators met with another major DRAM supplier, Micron, to express concerns about the continued DRAM price rally. Later, the regulators launched investigations into Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron, which collectively hold an over 90% share of the global DRAM market, the sources said.

Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron have all confimed the visits of China's antitrust regulators to their local offices. The companies said they would cooperate but did not elaborate.

According to China's antitrust law, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron could be fined between US$800 million and US$8 billion if found to have engaged in price fixing, the sources noted. The estimated fines are based on their DRAM sales to China in 2016-2017.

The three DRAM vendors, along with Infineon and Elpida Memory, were previously fined by the US for price fixing practices between 1999 and 2002. Infineon has already exited the DRAM business, while Elpida was later acquired by Micron.

China has become the largest consumer of DRAM memory. The country imported US$88.92 billion worth of memory chips in 2017, up nearly 40%. As a result, China's antitrust authority is being encouraged to launch a price-fixing probe like the one that took place in the US in 2002, after receiving a complaint submitted jointly by China's local smartphone and other consumer technology product vendors, the sources said.

Meanwhile, China is striving to raise the country's IC self-sufficiency rate. A few memory startups, such as Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), are being financially supported by their local governments to develop production technologies in-house. By intervening in the memory prices, China also intends to protect its local memory chipmakers' bargaining power in the future, the sources said.