[News] NAND Flash Manufacturers Kioxia and WD Reportedly Set to Resume Merger Talks in Late April

2024-02-26 Semiconductors editor

A glimmer of hope for the once-failed engagement between NAND flash memory giants Kioxia and Western Digital (WD) may emerge again. According to a report from Japanese media Asahi News, the two parties may restart merger negotiations in late April.

 It’s reported on February 23rd that Kioxia and WD are expected to resume merger talks in late April. Although their merger negotiations hit a snag last fall, both companies are facing pressure to expand their scale for survival. However, whether they can ultimately reach a merger agreement remains uncertain.

According to the report, both Kioxia and WD manufacture NAND Flash products. If they merge, their scale will rival that of the global market leader, Samsung Electronics. The Japanese government reportedly views the Kioxia/WD merger as a “symbol” of Japan-US semiconductor cooperation and has provided support. However, the merger negotiations hit an impasse last fall, reportedly due to opposition from SK Hynix, indirectly invested in Kioxia.

As per TrendForce’s  data for 3Q23, Samsung maintained its position as the top global NAND flash memory manufacturer, commanding a significant market share of 31.4%. Following closely, SK Group secured the second position with a 20.2% market share. Western Digital occupied the third position with a market share of 16.9%, while Japan’s Kioxia held a 14.5% market share.

Asahi News’ report further indicates that WD declared in October of last year that “all discussions had ended.” To avoid insider trading, as per the report cited sources, WD is expected to wait for a certain period before the negotiation can be resumed. Therefore, once this waiting period concludes, merger talks are set to resume in late April.

Per a report from Jiji Press on February 17th, regarding the merger proposal involving Kioxia and WD, Kioxia has proposed a collaboration with SK Hynix, which opposes the merger. Kioxia has reportedly approached SK Hynix and plans to utilize the jointly operated Japanese plants of Kioxia and WD to manufacture semiconductors for SK Hynix.

The report notes that SK Hynix and Kioxia are competitors in the NAND Flash industry. However, since 2018, SK Hynix has indirectly invested approximately 15% in the predecessor of Kioxia, “Toshiba Memory,” through the American investment fund Bain Capital. SK Hynix has consistently sought to strengthen its relationship with Kioxia since then.

Kioxia’s proposed acceptance of SK Hynix’s request to “strengthen the relationship” is seen as a gesture to persuade SK Hynix to agree to the merger proposal. The goal, as per the report, is to restart the stalled merger negotiations between Kioxia and WD.

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(Photo credit: Kioxia)

Please note that this article cites information from Asahi News and Jiji Press.