As NAND process geometries shrink, so too does the number of suppliers. That number is decreasing by another one as Micron agrees to buy Numonyx for $1.27bn in an all-stock deal.
The deal has been speculated about for weeks as the two, in a flash parable of the talents, pursued their different courses. Micron has been getting stronger and becoming a powerful force in the flash industry whilst Numonyx failed to translate its NOR and NAND flash technologies into industry-leading products and became the weaker of the two.
It was founded in 2008 by Intel and STMicroelectronics who offloaded their NOR (Intel) and NAND (STMicroelectronics) operations into Numonyx in an effort to build a business with enough critical mass to make a go of it. NOR flash is used in many mobile phones, whereas NAND flash is becoming more and more popular in storage arrays, servers, desktops, notebooks, netbooks, mobile Internet devices and is also used in mobile phones, as well as the ever-present USB sticks and camera cards.
NAND is on a strong growth curve whereas NOR is not.
Numonyx also has a possible post-flash technology called Phase-Change Memory (PCM). This combines some of the speed and bit-addressability of DRAM with the non-volatility of flash, and Intel recently helped devise a way to get it out of a PCM scaling trap.
Micron was founded in 1978 in Boise, Idaho. It has some 15,000 employees and fiscal 2009 revenues were $4.8bn. It has not been without financial troubles over the last few years as a NAND supply glut and the recession made life difficult, Micron made its first profit for several quarters in the final three months of last year.
It has its own technological prowess, and recently announced an industry-leading 25nm NAND fab process technology at the Intel Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) foundry earlier this month. IMFT is jointly owned by Intel and Micron.
According to iSuppli, Micron is the fourth largest flash supplier worldwide after Samsung, Toshiba and Hynix, in that order. After Micron comes Intel and, in sixth place, Numonyx. That is no place to be in an industry which relies on scale and steady output into a stable pricing environment to make profits.
Numonyx is 45 per cent owned by Intel, with STMicroelectronics having 49 per cent, and a finance house, Francisco Partners, having the remaining 6 per cent. The two main shareholders have decided Numonyx is too small to prosper and are exchanging their shares in it for Micron shares.
In terms of flash revenues, the Micron-Numonyx combo will become number three in the industry, a smidgen ahead of Hynix. It will have the leading flash process technology and a strong stake in follow-on technology to flash with PCM.
Micron will issue 140 million Micron common shares to Numonyx shareholders, with ten million more coming as needed depending on the value of Micron's shares. ®
Brian Harrison, Numonyx president and CEO, said in a canned statement: “This announcement is a strong testimony to the value of Numonyx technologies, products and people. The result will be a strong company that can best serve our target market segments and customers by delivering enhanced memory solutions, strength and scale. It is good for Numonyx and good for Micron.”
The transaction should close within three to six months. ®