ANALYSIS ALERT! |
SAMSUNG GOES PUBLIC WITH SANDISK OFFER
|September 16, 2008 - Samsung
today disclosed their position with regards to SanDisk in an open letter to
After detailing Samsung's good-faith efforts to
negotiate an acquisition the company tells that it has decided to go to the
shareholders to offer a price roughly double SanDisk's current share price to
acquire the company outright.
Stating that "The world has changed dramatically in the past
52 weeks" Samsung offers shareholders an opportunity to cut their losses
rather than to wait for the stock to return to its 52-week high.
The Samsung letter further states that the company does not want to
cut jobs, as they value SanDisk employees: "Our intention is to operate
SanDisk as a separate subsidiary company inside of Samsung and to maintain the
environment that has contributed to your success."
Within less than 2 hours SanDisk issued a statement that their board "unanimously
rejects Samsung's offer." Like Samsung, SanDisk disclosed some of the
history of their negotiations and explained that the negotiations did not
reflect SanDisk's anticipated market value and that stockholder protection was
not included in the Samsung offer. The SanDisk board states that the Samsung
offer is not in the shareholders' best interests.
A View from SanDisk's Perspective
SanDisk has plenty of
reason to expect their stock price to rebound to or even rise above their
52-week high. Although the stock market is highly disenchanted with the memory
markets today, those who understand the nature of semiconductor cycles realize
that once demand rises to absorb all of today's overcapacity, which indeed it
will, prices will firm, profits will resume, and stock prices will soar.
Nothing significant has changed. Unless SanDisk were to mismanage its business
very badly, their stock price in a year's time could very well be higher than
their current 52-week high of $56. SanDisk is an excellently managed company,
and they continually adjust their operations to assure that the company will
survive this cycle as they have all prior cycles.
Furthermore, Samsung's offer is cash. This deal is very different
from the deal Micron structured with TI in 1998, a deal that might be more
attractive to SanDisk. In the Micron/TI deal Micron acquired TI's DRAM business
at a fair price measured in depressed Micron stock. When TI sold that stock a
couple of years later they almost tripled their price. Meanwhile Micron didn't
have to deplete their cash position by acquiring TI during a down market, at a
time when Micron's cash was scarce.
From this perspective is not too surprising that SanDisk is
disinterested in a cash offer of double SanDisk's current share price.
This is a great time to acquire any US company. The dollar is trading
very low against most foreign currencies, so US acquisition targets are a real
bargain. If we assume that recent bank failures don't drive the dollar further
down this might be the best time to buy. To make things even more attractive,
the NAND and DRAM markets are in a state of significant overcapacity, and this
has pushed the share prices of participants in this market to bargain-basement
We see this as a very shrewd move by Samsung to take advantage of a
confluence of favorable circumstances. Their timing is excellent: Samsung
probably appreciates the fact that 2006 capital spending was so significant that
demand will not catch up with the current overcapacity until the middle of 2009.
This is a position that Objective Analysis has held for over a year now.
Should this scenario drag on for several months, Samsung will be able to prove
to shareholders that SanDisk's stock price cannot be expected to improve for the
next few quarters. Samsung even states: "It will take the NAND flash
market quite a bit of time to recover."
SanDisk's president Eli Harari even said that the Samsung offer: "is
opportunistically timed at the trough of an industry-wide downturn."
Furthermore, SanDisk is in the midst of negotiations with Samsung to
renew patent licenses under which Samsung is paying SanDisk hundreds of millions
every year. Should Samsung succeed in this acquisition, Samsung will be in a
position to receive a similar royalty stream, and to perhaps grow that stream to
something significantly larger than SanDisk's current royalty revenue.
Something we have not mentioned yet is that SanDisk not only owns a large share
of the intellectual property covering 2-bit MLC, but they appear to be the only
company to own 3-bit and 4-bit IP, and are likely to profit handsomely from this
position over the next two years.
What about Toshiba?
Ever since SanDisk converted from NOR to
NAND early this decade they have had a very close relationship with Toshiba.
The two companies share manufacturing capacity in Japan that satisfies the
majority of SanDisk's NAND consumption. Should Samsung acquire SanDisk it would
be reasonable for Samsung to shift this supply away from the Toshiba/SanDisk JV
fabs to Samsung's own capacity. What then happens to Toshiba? We do not
know if there are provisions for such a scenario in the SanDisk/Toshiba
agreements. At worst, Samsung would pull out of the JV fabs and sell their
share to the highest bidder, which would be disastrous during today's glut.
Quite possibly Samsung would renew the joint venture with Toshiba and become
their new partner. We see this as a best-case scenario. We will have to
wait and watch to see what eventually transpires.
The Shareholders' Dilemma
This is a difficult position. Shareholders can either take a stated
offer at what might seem a very good price, or they can have faith that SanDisk
stock will again rise above Samsung's current price. This analyst has faith
that SanDisk's share price will rise well above the $26 offering, but not until
the middle of next year. In case there are any concerns, this analyst is not
a shareholder in SanDisk, and I am currently kicking myself for having put off a
purchase I meant to make last week. Possible Regulatory Concerns The new
company should be a significant force in the NAND market perhaps large
enough to cause regulatory concerns. Samsung's open letter states: "we
have repeatedly expressed our confidence that this transaction will receive all
necessary governmental approvals." Objective Analysis finds the opposite
to be likely and we will explain why.
First of all, just how big
of a share of the NAND market would the combined entity have? In 2007 by the
two companies combined supplied just shy of 50% of total NAND shipments
(measured in either gigabytes or dollars.)
The US government uses a measure called the "HHI" the
Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to determine whether a merger or acquisition is
likely to cause a market to become uncompetitive. The HHI is a measure of
The Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines give the following
definitions of market concentration based on the post-merger HHI:
Below 1,000 Unconcentrated
1,000-1,800 Moderately Concentrated
Above 1,800 Highly Concentrated
The DOJ will note "significant competitive concerns" if a
merger or acquisition results in an HHI score increase of more than 100 points
in a moderately concentrated market or more than 50 points in a highly
concentrated market. If the HHI increases more than 100 points in a highly
concentrated market the DOJ reasons that the move is "likely to create or
enhance market power or facilitate its exercise."
The HHI for the NAND market in 2007 averaged about 2,300 and would
have been almost 3,300 with SanDisk and Samsung combined. This means that the
DOJ sees the NAND market as highly concentrated both before and after the
acquisition and will look very unfavorably upon the 1,000-point increase in the
HHI that would result from the acquisition.
Such a merger should prove very difficult for the combined companies'
competition and possibly to their customers whose negotiating power would become
Objective Analysis is very doubtful that the
government would allow such an acquisition to proceed, even in today's dire
market. On the other hand, the fact that Samsung has made the largest foreign
investment in US history with their construction of their latest fab in Austin,
TX, gives the company a bargaining chip during such discussions.
We will continue to watch this action, and will alert our clients
should any important changes transpire.
Jim Handy, Objective Analysis,
Analysis - editor mentions on STORAGEsearch.com