LONDON -- Despite a rocky global economy in 2012, consumer spending on tablet computers and smart phones remained strong as the era of the personal computer fades. These realities helped shape the electronics landscape this year, creating winners and losers in the semiconductor industry and a considerable number of significant mergers and acquisitions.
One of the most intriguing deals, the sale of processor IP licensor MIPS Technologies Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) is still playing out. In November, graphics IP specialist Imagination Technologies it had agreed to buy MIPS' operating business for $60 million while another U.K. company, ARM, would lead a consortium called Bridge Crossing. that would acquire rights to the MIPS portfolio of patents. Bridge Crossing would pay $350 million in cash to purchase the rights to the MIPS portfolio, of which ARM will contribute $167.5 million (see ARM and Imagination divide up MIPS)
Two weeks later, however, Ceva Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.) sought to trump Imagination's offer for MIPS by bidding $75 million. MIPS shareholders are undoubtedly hoping Imagination or another bidder will respond with an even better offer.
There were other deals this year in the mixed-signal and RF market segments, including GPS and wireless chip company U-blox acquiring chip startup Cognovo for $16.5 million along with 4M Wireless for $9 million, both for their expertise in 3GPP LTE technology (see U-box buys Cognovo and 4M Wireless).
Here's the list:
The semiconductor mergers and acquisitions described below and on the following pages represent some of the key technology deals of 2012. They also illustrate the constant churn and reshaping of the global electronics industry. (Please note they're not ranked or ordered; all are considered significant.)
Deal: Apple Bites Anobit
Early in 2012, Apple announced its acquisition of flash memory controller startup Anobit Technologies (Herzeliya, Israel) for about $390 million. Anobit represented a catch for Apple because the Israeli company developed NAND flash memory controller technology that improves the apparent endurance of flash memory – the number of reads and writes it can perform.
The Anobit deal underscores an industry trend as all-powerful Apple pulls in key aspects of its supply chain. Left unanswered for now is whether Apple will in the coming year move to internal chip manufacturing. (see Apple buys Anobit).