4.Micron's 'love-hate' relationship with Korea
One needs a psychoanalyst to understand Micron Technology Inc.'s love-hate relationship with South Korea. At one point, Micron is attempting to acquire Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc. Then, the deal is off, then on, then off.... And finally Micron files a complaint against both Hynix and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. for allegedly using illegal government subsidies to fund their respective operations.
It's a long, complex story, which dominated the headlines in late 2001 and most of 2002. And without a doubt, Micron and its legal battle with Korea will remain topical in 2003.
Back in late 2001, reports surfaced that Micron was going to buy Hynix as well as Toshiba Corp.'s Dominion Semiconductor fab in Manassas, Va. (see Dec. 18, 2001 story ).
Then, after months of negotiations, Micron in April purchased the memory business of Hynix for about $3.2 billion. If the acquisition was to be completed, it would combine the world's second and third largest DRAM makers in the world, pushing Micron ahead of Samsung (see Dec. 18, 2001 story ). At the same time, Micron also buys Toshiba's DRAM fab in Virginia.
Later that month, however, Hynix' board unanimously rejected the proposed sale of its core memory operations to Micron, killing the deal that would have saved Hynix and brought a badly needed consolidation to the DRAM industry (see April 30, 2002 story ).
Then, it was time to take the gloves off. In November, Micron filed a "countervailing duty" complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission against South Korea's DRAM suppliers.
Micron's original announcement did not cite Hynix and Samsung by name, but the U.S. company said the complaint revolves around "multi-billion-dollar bailout packages and loan subsidies" to South Korean DRAM makers in violation of U.S. Countervailing Duty laws and South Korea's commitments under World Trade Organization agreements (see Nov. 1, 2002 story ).
"The ongoing subsidization of Korean DRAM manufacturers violates free market principles and has resulted in excess supply in the international market for DRAM products," said Steve Appleton, president and CEO of Micron, at the time. "Inefficient manufacturing operations should not be allowed to escape normal market forces. Korea has not kept its commitments to the World Trade Organization and continues to violate U.S. Countervailing Duty laws."
(Return to 2002 Top 10 list or go to No. 5).