Private equity chips away at semiconductor industry

A highly interesting article in Electronic Business by Tam Harbert.
Private equity firms target cash rich semiconductor entities, leverage on its cash flow to borrow more funds and then restructure, improve the company’s bottom line and then sell it or take it public; providing returns of 30-40%. Tam lists the reasons behind recent LBOs in the semiconductor space – industry being driven by the less cyclic consumer market, transition to fab-lite/fabless models and a better control over inventory.

The question which arises is that why hasn’t the chip industry taken the necessary steps to consolidate and leave that task to the private equity guys? iSupply’s Derek Lidow cites portfolio management as the reason. While chip companies, usually run by engineers structure the portfolio on technology, private equity folks tend to manage groups of products on market segments and geographical regions; rather than technology criterion. They acquire and merge companies that have similar product portfolios.

While on mergers and acquisitions, Mentor Graphics’ CEO, Wally Rhines mentioned in a recent article that the role of acquisitions in EDA industry is set to change. As the acquisitions in the past few years have failed to garner commensurate market capitalization, he opines that companies will either pay less for acquisitions or stop making them.

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