It’s no secret that AMD has been in trouble lately. Despite gaining a commanding position in the graphics industry, the chipmaker giant has been beaten by Intel in the microprocessor market. With AMD's first 45 nm product, Shanghai, forced to try to enter the market at the same time as Intel's second generation 45 nm Nehalem, and with consist quarterly losses something had to be done.
Today AMD announced a shocking decision that will rock the computer industry -- in order to try to stay competitive, it is splitting in two. From the ashes of AMD will rise two companies. One will design chips and keep the brand name. The other, officially named the Foundry Company, will manufacture chips. The two companies will work closely together, but be independent.
The move also came with good news -- two Abu Dhabi companies have elected to inject at least $5.7B USD into the pair of companies. Most of this money will go to the Foundry Company, which will use it to build a new factory in Albany, N.Y., and to upgrade its Dresden, Germany factory.
AMD retains a 44.4 percent stake in the new company. The majority ownership belongs to Advanced Technology Investment Company. Advanced Technology, a company created by Abu Dhabi's wealthy government, has promised immediate investment of $2.1B USD into the pair. It says it will follow this with an additional investment that could be anywhere from $3.6B to $6B USD. Despite the majority stake, Advanced Technology consented to have an equal number of votes as AMD on the Foundry Company's board.
Advanced Technology isn't the only Abu Dhabi company to want a big piece of the AMD pie either. Mubadala Development Company, which bought an 8 percent stake in AMD last November, will pay $314M USD to buy 58 million shares of AMD stock, to bring its stake in the presplit company to 19.3 percent. Mubadala and Advanced Technology, despite being competitors in some respects, worked together closely on the new deal.
Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of Mubadala, states, "We generally believe this deal is a game changer for the industry. It’s bold, and I think it’s smart."
Waleed al-Mokarrab, chairman of Advanced Technology added about AMD's recent struggles, "Yes, it is a cyclical business, but over time the trajectory is always upwards"
The AMD move is a bit of a shock to the electronics industry, but not an entire surprise. The company recently announced it was $5.3B USD in debt, with only $1.6B USD of cash on hand. AMD’s chief executive, Dirk Meyer, said the timing was right to turn for help. He stated, "This is the biggest announcement in our history. This will make us a financially stronger company, both in the near term and in the long term, as a result of being out from the capital expense burden we have had to bear."
Before AMD can be officially split up, the deal must meet regulatory and shareholder scrutiny. The deal is expected to be complete by 2009. The newly spawned Foundry Company will produce chips for others besides AMD. It will also compete with the independent Asian foundry firms such as TSMC.
The split may strike some as a bit ironic as AMD’s co-founder and longtime chief executive, W. J. Sanders III, known as Jerry, once quipped "real men have fabs", according to company lore. New CEO Mr. Meyer referenced the joke stating, "We feel like we’re still pretty manly at AMD. Frankly, the math has changed."
The Foundry Company at launch will control AMD's two chip foundries in Dresden, Germany. One is in need of an upgrade to make modern chips. Plans will continue to build the larger state-of-the-art Malta, N.Y. foundry, which will cost $3.2B USD. The state of New York is offering the new company $1.2B USD in incentives to build the plant, as it will employ 1,400 workers. The Foundry Company will assume $1.2B USD, or roughly a quarter, of AMD's debt