Intel Corp. is currently negotiating with Micron Technology Inc. to take a minor equity stake in the DRAM maker, a move that would give Intel a steady supply of memory, and Micron capital to pursue its expansion plans, EBN has learned.
Spokespeople at both Intel and Micron declined to comment.
The outcome of the negotiations was still uncertain today. And whether Intel's infusion would be provided through financing or a private securities purchase was also unclear. Sources close to the companies, however, said both Intel and Micron are leaning toward a cash transfer.
Byron Walker, an analyst at BT Alex. Brown Inc., New York, said he didn't believe the Intel-Micron arrangement when he first heard it. "I checked it out and now believe there's some validity."
While it is unclear how Micron would use the funds, the company has several fab projects under way. For one, its long-delayed fab in Lehi, Utah, needs to be equipped. Micron also needs to upgrade three of the DRAM fabs it recently acquired from Texas Instruments Inc. The Boise, Idaho, company's ambitious expansion plans could make it the overwhelming leader in the global DRAM market, analysts said.
Intel's stake in Micron could ensure the microprocessor maker a continued supply of DRAMs, prevent another shortage, and keep DRAM prices from rising again. Some industry observers said it would give the Santa Clara, Calif., company the highest leverage in the DRAM market. Major global DRAM competitors would be forced to accelerate their DRAM yields to keep up with low-cost Micron chips.
Intel would also co-opt one of the most aggressive rivals to its Direct Rambus DRAM wideband memory standard. Although Micron is developing a Direct RDRAM chip as a backstop strategy, it has made little secret of its plan to promote SLDRAM wideband architecture as an alternative to Direct RDRAM.
While the deal would also give Intel an assured supply of Direct RDRAMs, that part of the possible cooperation is not as critical, since a bevy of top-tier DRAM suppliers are already committed to ramping Direct RDRAM output starting with pilot production this fall.
One observer hinted that Intel might partner with Micron on some of its 300-mm-wafer development technology that could be deployed in the Lehi facility. The technology would allow Micron to launch the next-generation wafer size in tandem with other chip makers when the new technology moves into the market.
Financial sources this week gave more credence to the Intel-Micron report than to the earlier spate of rumors that emanated from South Korea last spring, including Intel's $1 billion cash infusion of Samsung, which never came to pass.