Intel agrees to sell storage unit to SK Hynix for $9 billion

Bloomberg October 20 | Updated on October 20, 2020

The deal should shore up Hynix’s position in a business that’s boomed after Covid-19 drove demand for the chips

Intel Corp agreed to sell its Nand memory unit to South Korea’s SK Hynix Inc for about $9 billion, a deal that allows the US chipmaker to concentrate on its main business while shoring up the Asian company’s position in a booming market.

The chipmaker will pay 10.3 trillion won for the Intel unit, which makes flash memory components for computers and other devices. The acquisition, which will take place in stages through 2025, includes Intel’s solid-state drive, Nand flash and wafer businesses, as well as a production facility in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian.

The deal should shore up Hynix’s position in a business that’s boomed after Covid-19 drove demand for the chips used in everything from Apple Inc’s iPhones to data centres. It whittles down another player in an industry the Korean company dominates alongside Samsung Electronics Co and Micron Technology Inc, potentially buoying Nand flash prices. Hynix’s shares fell about 1.8 per cent after analysts raised concerns about the price tag on its largest acquisition ever.

Also read: AMD in talks to buy rival chipmaker Xilinx

“Hynix is now entering the hyperscale control chip business by purchasing Intel’s business. Although there is some scepticism about the price of the deal, I think this won’t be a burden because it will ensure solid long-term cash flow,” said Greg Roh, an analyst at HMC Securities. “The market consolidation is good news for Korean memory chipmakers, and will alleviate oversupply issues.”

Intel has said for months it was exploring options for the flash group. Hynix however, won’t be buying the Optane division, which develops chips that can permanently store data and read and write it faster than NAND — if not faster than traditional DRAM. The product, which went on sale in 2018, was tested successfully by some large cloud providers and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. used the technology to support its massive Singles Day sales. Bob Swan, Intel’s chief executive officer, described Optane as something special last year.

The Korean company said it will pay Intel $7 billion before the end of 2021, then the rest by March 2025. Citigroup advised Hynix, while Bank of America did the same for Intel. The deal could allow Hynix to surpass Kioxia — a Toshiba Corp spinoff — in the Nand flash market, in particular, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anthea Lai.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

SK Hynix’s agreement to acquire Intel’s memory chip unit for 10.3 trillion won will help the South Korean chipmaker surpass its second-biggest rival Kioxia by Nand flash revenue, we calculate. The deal would consolidate the Nand market, with Samsung, SK Hynix and Kioxia commanding more than 70 per cent of revenue share, aiding Nand price recovery and narrowing losses, in our view.

- Anthea Lai, analyst

The acquisition also further streamlines Intel’s struggling empire. Since taking over in 2019, Swan has looked to sell several units that aren’t part of the company’s focus on processors for personal computers and servers.

Also read: Intel unveils new transistor technology, provides first look into Tiger Lake processors and Xe graphics

The Santa Clara, California-based company has delayed production of important upcoming chip lines and now lags behind some industry players in manufacturing technology. Its shares are down about 9 per cent so far this year, while the benchmark Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is up almost 29 per cent.

Despite the delays, the company’s server group has been performing well. Shedding another non-core business could help Intel focus on fixing its chip technology woes.

Intel unloaded its smartphone cellular modem group to Apple in 2019 and this year sold its home connectivity chips group to MaxLinear Inc. In July, the company said it was considering moving away from manufacturing its own chips, potentially benefiting contract producers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung.

Published on October 20, 2020

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