Ten deals that shaped the analog, MEMS and sensors world in 2018

Ten deals that shaped the analog, MEMS and sensors world in 2018
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Consolidation in the electronics and semiconductor sectors continued in 2018 and here is a top ten list of deals, in roughly chronological order, that impacted the analog, MEMS and sensors sector in 2018.
By Peter Clarke

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1) Qualcomm, NXP Semiconductor deal cancelled

This story rumbled through the whole of 2017 and on into 2018 where it started to get wrapped up in the US-China trade war with authorities withholding permissions. But eventually the deal lapsed and the two went their separate ways (see Qualcomm terminates NXP acquisition, buys back stock instead).

2) Cree buys Infineon RF power

In March Cree Inc. (Durham, North Carolina) said it had acquired the RF power assets of Infineon Technologies for approximately €345 million (about $390 million) expanding opportunities in wireless for Cree’s Wolfspeed business unit and enhancing its leadership in RF GaN-on-SiC technologies (see Cree buys Infineon RF power business assets).

3) Microchip buys Microsemi

Also in March microcontroller and mixed-signal company Microchip Technology Inc. (Chandler, Ariz.) agreed to purchase mixed-signal, power, RF and FPGA vendor Microsemi Corp. (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) for $8.35 billion.

Microchip is well known as the vendor of PIC microcontroller range while Microsemi dates back to 1959 when it was founded as Microsemiconductor. Microsemi had grown repeatedly by acquisition and merger and over time manouvered into FPGA and timing circuit sales. In 1991 it acquired a facility in Ennis, in county Clare Ireland with a competency in the development, manufacturing and high reliability testing of semiconductors to meet stringent aerospace, satellite, medical and security standards (see One Micro to buy another for $8.35 billion).

4) InvenSense buys Chirp

Chirp Microsystems Inc. (Berkeley, Calif.) was an interesting startup that used a MEMS based ultrasonic transceiver to detect gestures up to a range of 1 to 5 meters. The technology is also reckoned to be smaller and lower power than optical time-of-flight sensors, and they work in direct sunlight (see Chirp launches ultrasonic ToF sensors).

InvenSense, which has itself been acquired in 2017 by TDK of Japan (see TDK agrees to pay $1.3 billion for InvenSense), bought Chirp for an undisclosed amount (see Startup Chirp Microsystems to become part of TDK’s InvenSense).

5) Nexperia goes Chinese

In April 2018 Nexperia BV (Nijmegen, The Netherlands), a manufacturer of discrete semiconductors, logic and MOSFET devices secured $800 million in credit facilities to help it fund future growth.

Nexperia had been formed in February 2017 by the purchase of the standard products business unit of NXP Semiconductors NV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) by a consortium led by China’s Beijing Jianguang Asset Management Co. Ltd. and Wise Road Capital Ltd.

And then in October 2018 Wingtech Technology Co. Ltd. (Shanghai, China) bought out the consortium for 25.2 billion yuan, about $3.63 billion, see Chinese firm to buy Nexperia for $3.6 billion).

Next: From ARM in China to Apple


6) ARM gives up control in China

In May reports were starting to emerge that a joint venture formed by intellectual property licensor ARM and local China interests would be used to control ARM’s operations on the mainland. But what was most intriguing at the time was the possibility that ARM would have a minority stake in this joint venture (see Report: Control of ARM’s China business to pass to JV).

In June ARM’s owner SoftBank Group Corp., confirmed that it had agreed to sell a majority stake in ARM’s Chinese trading subsidiary to unnamed investors although the list was thought to include China Investment Corp:, Silk Road Fund, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, ARM, Hopu Investment Management and Shum Yip Group.

Softbank said 51 percent of the equity interest in ARM China was being sold for US$775.2 million. The result appears to be that ARM lost control of the company that operates in China to collect royalties on ARM IP – a strange state of affairs. It appears that 2018 was the year that ARM got mugged in the corridors of power (see SoftBank confirms sell-off of ARM China stake).

7) Adesto buys S3 Semiconductor, Echelon

So 2018 was a busy year for public company Adesto Technologies Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.). In May the memory and IoT chip vendor moved to buy S3 Semiconductors (Dublin, Ireland), a supplier of mixed-signal and RF ASICs, for $35 million (see Adesto buys Dublin-based S3 Semiconductor). And followed this up in June with the acquisition of Echelon Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) for $45 million (see Adesto to acquire networking pioneer Echelon).

Also in June Adesto had announced it would work with foundries and fabs in Russia and China on the manufacturing of its conductive bridging RAM (see Adesto teams with Russian, Chinese fabs on CBRAM).

8) Missile, wafer makers save Dolphin

Dolphin Integrations SA (Grenoble, France) is one of the oldest EDA companies in Europe but it found itself in need of a bail out in 2018 after filing for insolvency in June.

Riding to the rescue came a 60:40 joint venture between Grenoble-based wafer provider Soitec SA and European missile manufacturer MBDA Missile Systems who agreed to buy most of Dolphin’s assets for €6 million. MBDA is itself a joint venture being jointly owned by Airbus (37.5 percent), BAE Systems (37.5 percent), and Leonardo (25.0 percent). MBDA has a been a customer of Dolphin’s for defense applications since 2004 (see Missile maker, Soitec save Dolphin Integration).

9) Renesas buys IDT

In September came another big deal. Japan’s Renesas agreed to acquire the mixed-signal and communications IC company for $6.7 billion. IDT is a fit alongside power management semiconductor company Intersil, which Renesas acquired in February 2017. These two complement Renesas’ capabilities in embedded processors and broaden its customer base from automotive to include IoT and big data processing (see Renesas to buy IDT for $6.7 billion).

10) Apple buys PMIC assets from Dialog Semiconductor

In October, European fabless chip company Dialog Semiconductor plc has announced it would transfer 16 percent of its workforce to Apple, while receiving license fees and prepayment for three years of products.

The deal is worth $600 million to Dialog and reduces the companies reliance on Apple as lead customer and on the vagaries of the volatile consumer electronics market (see Apple to acquire PMIC capabilities, staff from Dialog). The deal allows Dialog to focus on IoT, automotive, computing, storage and industrial applications.

While it may be seen as ultimately reducing Dialog’s turnover by enabling Apple to design  its own PMICs we commented at the time that it represented a good result for Dialog and a better likely outcome than that which befell Imagination Technologies (see Analysis: Dialog finds a better way out from under Apple).

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