Eyes on Elpida of Japan

SK Hynix considering bid to take over bankrupt Japanese chipmaker to beef up its production

SK Group has jumped into the race to take over Elpida Semiconductor Co. in Japan, which has been looking for a new owner since its bankruptcy last year.
SK Hynix Semiconductor submitted its intention to join the bidding for the bankrupt Japanese chipmaker on March 30, in competition with a number of rival bidders including Toshiba and Micron Technology. Elpida is a DRAM semiconductor maker set up jointly by Hitachi and NEC back in 1999 and merged with Mitsubishi in 2002 before going bankrupt, unable to compete in the chip industry anymore due to accumulated losses.
Industry sources estimate the chipmaker is worth some 1 trillion won to 1.5 trillion won. If SK Hynix wins the bid, its capacity to produce DRAM chips will be increased to 35.6 percent of the entire global market for the chip, coming close to matching Samsung Electronics¡¯ 43.2 percent of the market.
Industry sources said Chairman Chey Tae-won might just want to scare rival chipmakers or just want to have a chance to size up the Japanese chipmaker. But some said on the contrary, he might want to take over the Japanese chipmaker, not stopping at just taking over Hynix, as he was known to have studied the semiconductor industry to find SK Group¡¯s future growth engine.
SK Group¡¯s two main lines of business have been petrochemical and mobile communications, but now the group has turned its eyes to overseas natural resources exploration and semiconductor production as its new growth engines.
With Hynix Semiconductor firmly in its hands, the conglomerate expects to spur its overseas operations to expand its profit through exports to make it an export-oriented conglomerate, industry sources said.
The business group took over Korea Oil Corp. in 1980, followed by the takeover of Korea Telecom in 1994, securing new growth engines for the group. Now, with Hynix Semiconductor in its stable, it will once again change its business portfolio and upgrade its growth strategy, they said.
When Hynix is included in the group¡¯s performance results, SK¡¯s annual turnover will be expanded to around 55 trillion won, boosting the group¡¯s overseas sales to some 70 percent of total annual sales. The semiconductor company¡¯s annual turnover amounted to 11.97 trillion won in 2010 with 96.7 percent coming from overseas, bolstering SK¡¯s overseas revenues in the coming years.
With Hynix as a global presence and loaded with IT technologies, SK has now been put in a good position to diversify its operations for the sake of ¡®fusion and reform,¡¯ the key elements in the IT industry to bring opportunities for various fusion-type businesses among the different business sectors. Hynix¡¯s expansive overseas business network with operations in 15 foreign countries and its global business know-how is being counted on to be a great asset to SK down the road.
Chairman Chey emphasized that SK Hynix should produce high value-added chips and he will spare no efforts to secure enough funds for investments in Hynix to normalize its operation as a top chipmaker. He said he will take the Hynix board¡¯s decision to name him as the new chairman as a signal to lead the company to be one of the best chipmakers globally. He made the statement when he was visiting the chipmaker¡¯s office in Seoul on the day the company¡¯s board approved his nomination as SK Hynix chairman.
The chipmaker is set to invest 4.2 trillion won into the NAND flash memory production facilities and away from DRAM chips in order to be in line with trends in the chip market that show demand building for NAND flash memory chips with the projected growth of mobile equipment.

(Photo from Left) A view of the ceremony marking the takeover of Hynix Semiconductor by SK Group last month and renamed as SK Hynix Semiconductor Co. Chairman Chey Tae-won is greeted by employees on his visit to a SK Hynix plant near Seoul.

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