[News] Kioxia and Western Digital Merger in Turmoil? Reports of SK Hynix Disapproval and a Possible SoftBank Collaboration

2023-10-18 Semiconductors editor

Is the merger between NAND flash memory chipmakers Kioxia and Western Digital (WD) , which was expected to be finalized this month, facing a twist? According to media reports, South Korean memory giant SK Hynix is opposing this merger and is considering a collaboration with Japan’s SoftBank to invest in Kioxia.

As reported by Yomiuri Shimbun on the 18th, insiders reveal that the merger negotiations between Kioxia and WD might be at an impasse. Although both sides aimed to reach a merger agreement this month, SK Hynix, which plans to indirectly invest in Kioxia, doesn’t concur with the merger. In anticipation of negotiations collapsing, SK Hynix considers partnering with SoftBank to invest in Kioxia.

Kioxia, a spin-off from Toshiba’s memory business, was sold in 2018 to a Bain-Capital-lead consortium, including SK Hynix, and Hoya. At that time, regulations stipulated that the largest shareholder, Bain, must secure the consent of contributors like SK Hynix to promote this merger. It’s reported that SK Hynix is apprehensive that WD’s dominance will increase in this merger.

Reports suggest that SoftBank is currently bolstering its AI-related ventures. Therefore, by investing and enhancing relationships, SoftBank may secure a stable memory supply from Kioxia and SK Hynix.

Throne Shift for memory business? Mergers May Reshape Rankings

Nikkei reported on the 17th that SK Hynix does not approve of the Kioxia and WD merger. At this stage, SoftBank is not directly involved in the merger talks between Kioxia and WD. Kioxia and WD aim to secure a financing agreement with financial institutions this week to facilitate the merger. However, the lack of consent from SK Hynix may impact negotiations with financial institutions.

The report points out that in the NAND flash market, SK Hynix is the world’s second-largest manufacturer, trailing only Samsung. If Kioxia, the world’s third-largest manufacturer, and WD, the fourth-largest, were to merge, they would nearly match Samsung’s scale. This would create a significant gap between SK Hynix, which holds the third position, and raise concerns for SK Hynix.

Toshiba, currently holding approximately 40% of Kioxia, will also become a shareholder in the holding company, with Kioxia’s President, Nobuo Hayasaka, assuming the role of President for the holding company. Additionally, Kioxia will have the majority of seats on the board, granting substantial operational authority

According to data from TrendForce, In Q2 2023, Samsung leads the NAND memory market with 31.1% market share, while Kioxia holds 19.6%, and Western Digital has 14.7%. After the Kioxia-WD merger, their combined market share could exceed 34.3%, establishing them as the dominant force in the NAND memory market.

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(Image: SK Hynix )