25th June 2012

Mediatek’s offer to buy MStar

Two compatriots for long at loggerheads have decided to join forces and take on the competition. News about Taiwanese chip designer MediaTek’s offer to buy rival MStar has created quite a buzz and water cooler speculation…. and of course the stock market. MStar was up 6.85 percent (maximum allowed in a session), while MediaTek gained 2.37 percent today.

My two cents’ worth addition to the buzz …..
- This acquisition will create the world’s fourth largest chip designer with total annual sales of US$4.2 billion in 2011

- The combined entity will have an almost 70% market share (a monopoly position??) in the TV SoC biz (DisplaySearch’s Q4’11 data put the two companies’ combined market share as 68.8%).

- Combined R&D resources and not looking over the shoulder for price cutting competition from the previous arch rivals can potentially sharpen the focus and product offering

- On the mobile phones arena: High end 3G smartphone chips along side the 2G ones for feature phones will consolidate & expand MediaTek’s mobile phone chip offering, especially in the emerging markets – more so in China where it has seen its once dominant position threatened by Spreadtrum and the likes (incidentally, MediaTek recently lost a TDSCDMA/WCDMA 3G chip socket in Samsung smartphone to Spreadtrum)

- And most importantly, it positions MediaTek well in an increasingly connected device market. With the growing convergence across platforms – TV, mobile phones, tablets/computing devices – it is crucial to integrate the relevant technologies across them so as to optimally and cost effectively leverage the same across the various platforms (Qualcomm announced a new Snapdragon for smart TVs and set top boxes in CES early this year and then at Computex later, it demonstrated its Smart TV reference platform with its quad-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8064 and MPQ8064 playing games and slinging TV frames. In E3 ’12 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), Samsung’s Smart TV included access to Nvidia’s new cloud gaming platform, GeForce Grid. Marvell too showcased its total solutions across Smart TVs, cloud computing and connectivity at Mobile World Congress)

- Concern: Talent retention/Integration of the combined work force. With almost 80% of MStar’s engineers doing the same work as folks at MediaTek, how will the parent entity avoid overlapping resources and address the potential loss (if not exodus) of talent?

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Fabless, Industry Events, Mergers & Acquistions, 3G, MIDs, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Spreadtrum, MStar | 0 Comments

2nd March 2012

AMD acquires SeaMicro

AMD starts selling Intel based servers – it does make an intriguing catch phrase, correct?

AMD’s latest acquisition of SeaMicro has caused some ripples. SeaMicro is a US based exclusive start-up claiming high power and space reductions (both key factors in the server market). And it currently sells exclusively Intel based servers. Its technology includes a custom CPU (Atom or Xeon) + DRAM + Freedom Fabric ASIC.

AMD has seen its market share in the server market fall from 15% in 2007 to 6.5% in 2011. Add to it the fact that almost 22% of the company’s market share depends upon server sales. So, this acquisition will strengthen AMD’s stake in this sector.

Outlook here may well include – AMD phasing out Intel’s design/chips and replacing with its own (the thread performance of its CPUs score over Intel’s) or perhaps ARM (following its partners (IBM, Dell, HP) and…. at the mention of partners, with AMD selling chips to its existing partners and also selling servers which count these partners as competition, this acquisition can pose a channel conflict

posted in ASICs, Semiconductor, Business, Mergers & Acquistions, Intel, AMD, Server | 0 Comments

16th August 2011

So what’s the deal with the Google –Motorola Mobility deal, eh?

The cyberspace is abuzz with news about Google acquiring Motorola Mobility for a whopping $12.5 billion. Speculations on Google’s motive behind the deal are mainly skewed towards 2 issues – access to patents and the other whether Google has plans to set up another end-to-end mobile empire akin to Apple. Add to that the buzzing concern of a high potential for conflict - mainly whether there still will be a “level playing field” amongst different Android handset vendors.

My two cents….

1. Access to patents: Motorola deal gives Google access to more than 17000 patents. This helps Google lend a legal hand to the embroiled Android handset vendors like HTC and Samsung as well as prepare itself against potential infringement law suits.

Flip side: If that was the main point, would Google not have been better off with just buying the patents like it did from IBM?

2. Potential conflict of interest – open OS partner or a handset competitor?? Now that can indeed be a worrying factor amongst the Android handset vendors - in spite of the prompt support statements from Samsung, HTC etc. Will these companies who had flocked towards Android to compete against Apple now gravitate towards Microsoft’s Windows Mobile? Google has stated that the handset biz will be kept as a separate independent biz and Android platform as an open one as before but the company will have a tough time treading this slippery slope in order to retain the Android handset vendors’ support.

Having said that, we have seen biz areas where the line between partner and competitor has blurred. Pure play foundries, IP vendors and IDMs is one such example. Market conditions have led to consolidation, fab lite etc. IDMs get the core process wafers done from foundries and keep some special process add-ons in-house to retain their specific niche. IP vendors work along with foundries in spite of foundries touting their own IP portfolio as well as specific design services.
Individually it has got very difficult to compete, with combining resources, there always lurk the spectre of “loss of level playing field”.

3. An Apple like end-to-end empire: Lucrative but an extremely difficult path ahead for the search engine giant in the hardware world… a tough act to follow!

But apart from these, the news throws up another nugget too:

The central point of computing is moving away from the desk towards mobile - and search engines do follow the computing devices. A tight integration between hardware and OS will make it easier to get the desired utilities and apps to the consumer – providing the coveted “unique user experience’.

The deal goes beyond handsets. Motorola Mobility is also into set top boxes – just to name another one. This will bring Google back into the home automation market. Gigaom’s Stacey Higginbotham & Katie Fehrenbacher has written a very good article on this; do read it. Getting your ads, location optimized and perhaps with dynamic relevance does require a tighter integration between the hardware and software.

And it is for this reason alone, my opinion is that it will very much be in Google’s interest to keep Motorola Mobility humming away as a separate unit within Google – especially as far as the level playing field of Android handset entities are concerned and leverage this hardware vendor acquisition to bolster its search ads revenues by making it’s ads more pervasive and relevant.
The patents are the special icing on the cake!!

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Industry Events, Mergers & Acquistions, MIDs, Hardware | 0 Comments

22nd July 2011

Spreadtrum acquires Telegent - Deja-vu??

Spreadtrum Communications, the fabless developer of baseband and RF chips recently announced its acquisition of Telegent Systems, a developer of software and silicon for the reception of live broadcast television signals.

While trolling the net, I saw this article that gives a quirky feeling of déjà vu. The article’s contents basically go on these lines….

In 2007, the US Wi-Fi provider and GPS manufacturer, SiRF bought Centrality, a company with navigation & multimedia experience. Later, SiRF itself got acquired by CSR. In hindsight, industry analysts viewed the Centrality purchase as a bad move.

Now the money/invested parties part …Centrality’s major investors included Walden International and it had a NEA (New Enterprises Association) principle on its BoD. An NEA principle was also on the SiRF’s board. Baseline appeared to be - sell the company to a public company and for enough cash that would return the VC capital and perhaps a large profit at the same time for the investors.

Move on to today…

Spreadtrum buys Telegent. Telegent shot into fame (and profits) with its analog broadcast TV. Since then, it moved to mixed signal and then to digital – a realm with intense price competition and very low margins.

Telegent’s investors include New Enterprise Associates and Walden International. Telegent’s CFO was once SiRF’s CFO. Spreadtrum has an NEA principle on Board….. you get the drift?

Will Spreadtrum do a SiRF???

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Fabless, Mergers & Acquistions | 0 Comments

29th October 2010

Percello’s acquisition by Broadcom

Broadcom has paid $86m net of cash for Israeli femtocell IC specialist Percello in a bid to lower the BOM, and accelerate time to market, for its femtocell chip offerings. This comes close on the heels of acquiring the WiMAX prpovder, Beceem Communications.

The big fabless company’s acquisition does signify an endorsing of a real demand for femtocells. It is also now well positioned to take advantage of the relationship Percello has already cultivated with Ubiquisys, probably the number one in femtocell access point vendors.

Linley Gwennap, founder and principal analyst at Linley Group had correctly predicted in a talk to EETimes earlier -“The incremental cost of the femto function would be around $10. This could ultimately require the femto processor to integrate Ethernet and Wi-Fi as well as DSL or cable-modem. Broadcom is the obvious company to develop such a chip.”

Interconnectivity is getting more and more interesting! And hey, this is Broadcom’s sixth acquisition in Israel – and it already has 3 development centres there.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Mergers & Acquistions, 3G | 0 Comments

13th October 2010

Logical adjacency or hedging bets?? - Synopsys buys software firm Optical Research

Synopsys has acquired Optical Research Associates, a privately held premier provider of optical design software andl engineering services. The acquisition represents Synopsys’ first move into markets associated with displays and solid state lighting using light emitting diodes. The company said the acquisition will also allow it to expand into markets such as semiconductor lithography equipment and cameras.
Over the last few years, Synopsys has been venturing into various fields - apart from its traditional role of supplying EDA tools for the semiconductor market. Earlier it was tools for the PV systems and now this foray into markets associated with displays and solid state lighting using LEDs
 

With mixed signals on the semiconductor outlook coupled with evolving role of EDA vendors, the line between “hedging bets” and moving into “logical adjacent” areas is quite fine…..
 

posted in Semiconductor, EDA, Mergers & Acquistions | 0 Comments

20th October 2009

Fab allocation back on the agenda

As mentioned by Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons in the IEF 2009, “The ‘A’ word is back on the agenda”,
 

But it is not all smooth sailing for the foundry biz. The semiconductor industry’s capex has hit alarmingly low levels. The normal ratio of capex to sales over the industry’s history is 20%. Last year it was 12% and this year it will be 4%. The industry’s overall capacity is now 14% less than it was in Q3.’08. With the economy and market’s forecasted recovery, foundries will be hard pressed next year to meet the demands.
 

And that is where the “C” word comes in – Collaboration and Consolidation.
 

There has also been a lot of talk on consolidation in the foundry biz – as in other areas of the semiconductor industry. There are some pending mergers - between Hua Hong NEC and Grace Semiconductor; Tower Semiconductor’s 2008 purchase of Jazz Semiconductor, proposed acquisition of HeJian Technologies by UMC and the recent purchase of Chartered by GlobalFoundries.
 

Possible future mergers are: SMIC acquiring Cension Semiconductor Manufacturing International and Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing - two companies which SMIC is managing. And then there are small foundries like Silterra, Altis and Landshunt which are struggling and open to speculation regarding a merger with another manufacturer.”
In all likelihood, as cited by iSuppli, there may be 3 major pure-play foundries left standing after the consolidation – TSMC, UMC and GlobalFoundries.

.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Foundry, Mergers & Acquistions | 0 Comments

11th March 2008

Infineon sells HDD biz to LSI

Not too long back, quite a few companies, mostly ranking in the semicon top 10, counted a diverse portfolio as their strength. With the brutal and dynamic market conditions, this is becoming a luxury that only a few can afford. 

Following the trend of consolidation and focusing on core biz activities, Infineon will sell its hard disk drive (HDD) design and manufacture business to LSI Corp. LSI expects the acquisition will further its goal of becoming the leading worldwide provider of silicon solutions for hard-drive makers, especially at a time when the HDD market is going from mechanical to solid state drives. And they get an inlet to a top-tier customer, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

For Infineon, it is shedding a non-core biz, an area where they did not stand much of a chance amongst competitors like Marvell, LSI, TI and STMicroelectronics – and to focus its resources on its core businesses where it can be among the top few.

Just a year back, another acquisition between the same companies took place; albeit in a reverse direction - last August, Infineon agreed to pay $563.6 million to acquire LSI’s mobility products business to strengthen their position in mobile phone market. And the top tier customer base to be tapped there was Samsung.

They sure dig each others’ technology!!

 

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Mergers & Acquistions | 1 Comment

16th October 2007

Wipro buys radio access unit from Nokia Siemens

Continuing to beef up its engineering capabilities through global acquisitions (the last one being acquiring the Oki design centre in Singapore), Wipro is set to acquire the radio access related R&D activities from Nokia Siemens design centre in Berlin. Nearly 60 staff members from the design centre will be transferred to Wipro.

While adding to Wipro’s R&D capabilities in 3G, it once again provides Wipro a presence enhancing platform in a foreign market – Europe in this case.

posted in Business, Mergers & Acquistions | 0 Comments

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