The European Union appears close to formally take action Intel for what they see as anticompetitive business practices in the region. The size of the penalty is to be discussed by representatives from 27 EU governments in early May, according to reports, but legal experts estimate it could total a record $1.33 billion - more than two times the $663 million fine Microsoft faced back in 2004.

The European Commission can theoretically go as far as 10% of a firm's global sales. To put that into perspective, $1.33 billion is equivalent to about 3.46% of Intel's revenue of $37.6 billion in 2008. Regulators would presumably impose a fine that high only in the event of cartel behavior, however, not to an individual company.

The Commission has been investigating Intel ever since receiving a complaint from AMD in 2000. The charges include offering inducements to European retailers for not buying processors from AMD, paying "a leading OEM" to delay the launch of products with an AMD inside, and giving substantial rebates to the same OEM if it bought only CPUs from Intel. The latter of course maintains that its actions were within legal boundaries.