SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Stephen Schwartz, chief executive, president and chairman of troubled Asyst Technologies Inc., has resigned from the company, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Asyst (Fremont, Calif.) has also hired a chief restructuring officer, according to the filing. But the resignation of Schwartz, coupled with Asyst's recent bankruptcy filing, has begun speculation that several companies may bid to acquire the company. Hit hard by the IC downturn, fab-tool automation vendor Asyst recently filed for bankruptcy and is looking for a buyer. Asyst's customers include Intel, TSMC and others.
Potential suitors for Asyst include Applied Materials, Aquest, Brooks, Daifuku and even an automotive concern, according to sources.
Risto Puhakka, president of semiconductor industry research firm VLSI Research Inc., said that he did not know how the Asyst situation would play out, but that he believes the company is likely to continue running in one form or another, either after being acquired or after reorganization through bankruptcy. Asyst has a lot of equipment in the field under warranty, he said.
Puhakka said two possible acquisition suitors are Brooks Automation Inc., a direct competitor, and Applied Materials Inc., the No. 1 semiconductor equipment company, which does have some automation products. But he added that this was pure speculation and that he had not yet crunched the numbers to see if an offer from Brooks was even viable.
Puhakka speculated that another offer from Aquest Systems Corp., which was in talks to acquire Asyst last year, was not likely to be forthcoming. That offer was backed by a lot of private equity, Puhakka, which may no longer be in place.
Last October Asyst and Aquest broke off merger talks after failing to reach an agreement. In July Aquest sent a letter to Asyst expressing interest in acquiring the company for $6.50 a share.
As of Thursday, Asyst's stock was just over 4 cents a share. Still others believe Aquest may renew its bid for Asyst. ''Some think we will have a role to play,'' said Mihir Parikh, president and chief executive of Aquest. ''Beyond this, I can't comment.''