Tag: hynix

Hyundai ponders Hynix buy

Hynix’s creditors could be breathing a sigh of relief, with reports that a company is stepping forward to buy the semiconductor firm.

The interested party is Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which wants to get a piece of the semiconductor company.

HHI has been thinking about submitting a letter of intent for the company’s shares. The asking price is 2.3 trillion won, or roughly $2.12 billion.

It is thought HHI wants to buy the company as a nod to its past. Before Hynix was an independent company it was part of Hyundai Electronics.  However, if HHI is serious it better get itself into gear quick, as the bids for the shares close on 8 July.

A Hynix sale has been on the cards for a while now, but no one seems to have bitten. In 2001, creditors tried to sell their shares in the company, which nearly collapsed following debts. They then tried again in 2010, but their attempts failed to attract bidders. But it has had some knocks.

In March 2010 the company was quoted as saying it could only meet 60 percent of chip demand from its clients.

However, at the time, its bosses tried to sweeten the load, assuring potential buyers that the company was set to profit financially from the current, stronger market.

Whether HHI goes for it remains to be seen – but it shouldn’t take too long before we know.

Hynix sued in DRAM patent row

Hynix has found itself back in court.

Fresh from its legal fight with patent troll Rambus, the semiconductor outfit has found itself on the receiving end of a suit filed by Cascades Computer Innovation LLC (CCI).

The Korean technology company has fingered Hynix as using its DRAM patents in a range of products, including the Hynix DDR3 range, without asking for licensing permission.

The patent in question is number 6,366,130, titled the “High Speed Low Power Data Transfer Scheme”, which CCI claims Hynix has been “contributorily infringing”.

CCI claims this has been going on for a few years and that Hynix also knew about its plans to drag it through the courts “as early” as 20 May, after it pointed out that certain products infringed  the patents.

Apparently the threats did nothing to deter Hynix, which CCI alleges which carried on.

Now CCI has clearly decided that enough is enough and has asked that the Illinois federal court push for injunctive relief and damages. It also wants the company to stop using the patents.

Hynix is no stranger to the courts. Along with its grumbling mate Micron, it’s currently saying Rambus shredded documents that related to recent patent rulings, which involved documents relating to two patent infringement lawsuits filed by the troll.

The documents, related to the case between Rambus and Hynix Semiconductor and Micron, saw the IP firm accusing the pair of boycotting its RDRAM memory technology. In the lawsuit it claims that Micron and Hynix improperly colluded to restrict production and raise the price of Rambus chips.

Micron and Hynix "conspired to destroy Rambus"

A US court was told how Micron and Hynix used their combined power to prevent Rambus‘ superior memory technology from becoming an industry standard.

Opening statements began in a California state court in a long running antitrust lawsuit where Rambus finally takes on Micron and Hynix.

Rambus lawyers claim that Micron and Hynix boycotted its RDRAM memory technology and then improperly colluded to restrict production and raise the price of Rambus chips.

Rambus claimed that it lost $4.38 billion because of the pair’s antics.

Micron and Hynix have said in the past that they didn’t do nuttin, they were not there, and Rambus’s RDRAM was broken before they got there.

According to Reuters,  Rambus brief Bart Williams said Micron and Hynix stopped its RDRAM from becoming widely adopted. It should have been a contender. Chip giant Intel loved it and so did PC manufacturers, he claimed.

But the defendants did not want to share the DRAM market with Rambus so they cheated, he claimed.

We expect to hear what Micron and Hynix attorneys have to say about the case today. After years of out-of-court legal tussles, we expect the case to run and run.

It is being held in the Superior Court of the State of California in San Francisco. 

Judge says don't mention the Rambus shredding

Rambus has scored a minor victory against Hynix and Micron.

The patent crazy was probably sipping sparkling wine last night after a California state judge sided with it and ruled that jurors in an ongoing antitrust suit would not be told that the company had apparently shredded evidence in relation to its patent complaint against the pair.

Last week it was reported that an American appeals court had been asked by Hynix and Micron to revisit recent patent rulings involving documents relating to two patent infringement lawsuits filed by Rambus, after it was claimed that it had shredded hundreds of boxes of documents.

The documents related to the case between Rambus and Hynix Semiconductor and Micron with the IP firm accusing the pair of boycotting its RDRAM memory technology. In the lawsuit it claims that Micron and Hynix improperly colluded to restrict production and raise the price of Rambus chips.

To make up for the heartache, Rambus wants $4.3 billion from these companies but the damages would be automatically tripled to $12.9 billion under California law if Rambus wins the case.

However, the gods must have been on Rambus’s side yesterday with superior Court Judge James McBride in San Francisco rejecting the request. His reasoning behind this was that
although Rambus’s document destruction was “not dead” in the trial it was also “not enshrined.”

He said that in order to make this part of the case the defendants would have to pass “a test of evidence.”

Micron however isn’t backing down, claiming that it still believes that the fact that Rambus had been found to have wrongfully destroyed documents and engaged in spoliation by a federal appeals court showed “Rambus’s bad faith and lack of fair dealing”.

Semiconductor industry is in denial – again

Despite good sales, the semi industry has decided to suppress the truth from itself leading to shortages that make it and the connector industry as “tight as a drum”.

That’s the view of Malcolm Penn, CEO of analyst firm Future Horizons, in his latest report to his top flying clients.

Penn points out that orders last December rose by 13.3 percent compared to December 2009 – full year orders rising 29.3 percent for the whole year.

He said: “Few people believe there is a supply problem in prospect. Just as this time last year, industry denial is rampant, way beyond reasonable caution and ignoring the underlying trends.”

Despite all the hype about tablets and smartphones, Penn thinks that the worldwide growth rate for PCs this year will be 10 percent, and the average DRAM installed in a unit 3.9GB

However, on the other hand, the Dramurai – the DRAM vendors – are switching a lot of their production to mobile because of increased demand for Mr Smartphone and Mrs Tablet.

The bright star in the firmament this year is servers, says Penn – on average a server will have a staggering 30GB per box in 2011, he says, and that in turn will create up to 60 percent demand for server DRAM.

Penn says Taiwanese vendors are “stuck in a technology trap” and can’t afford to invest in future technology – there’s likely to be consolidation in the DRAM supply base. And Elpida and Hynix have bad net cash positions, and are scraping together cash to cover short term debt.

Korea crisis could have domino effect on DRAM, LCD markets

As the barely-together, rotting olive branch that has been holding North and South Korea together snaps, it’s worrying news for the world and its markets. In what could be attention seeking provocation or something which will escalate, North Korea has been firing artillery shells at a residential island in South Korea. South Korea has returned fire and they have both been trading blows since, the comparably measured hostility from the DMZ having reached boiling point. 

The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea is a patch of territory where each army stands, day in, day out, pointing their guns at the other. Near the DMZ is Seoul, capitalist and US-friendly South Korea’s capital. And here much of the trading on the South korea Stock Exchange happens.

Already, a market analyst at South Korean Samsung predicted that, “inevitably,” the stock market will open slower from the act of aggression, reports Reuters.  But Samsung would downplay it if possible. It says this is more serious than testing missiles, but less serious than nuclear testing – but civilians have been targeted.

An analyst for Tong Yang Securities tells Reuters: “The North’s provocation historically sent shockwaves to the stock market, which has subsequently returned to normal. The latest incident may pose more risk as some South Koreans were reportedly injured by the North’s fire.”

What will happen? Many of the cogs in the electronics market are oiled by big business in South Korea: Samsung, Hynix, LG and others.   It could very well have a domino effect. The KRX100 is down 29.23 points, the KOSPI is down 15.40 points and the KOSDAQ is down 4.40 points. 

And what of the neighbours? Japan must be worried as North Korea has shown aggression to it before. China, while historically more sympathetic to North Korea than the rest of its world, doesn’t want disruption in Asia: its strength and its power is based on trade. 

Like incidents before, the situation may blow over. But it is a determinedly heavy act of aggression and there’s every possibility the world will have to tread carefully.

Samsung takes DRAM dominance

Samsung  became the only top five DRAM supplier to achieve revenue growth in the third quarter iSuppli said.

The giant secured its place as DRAM dominator selling $4.4 billion worth of DRAM in the third quarter, up 14.3 percent from $3.8 billion in the second quarter. In contrast the next four largest suppliers all suffered sequential declines in revenue, which again boosted Samsung with the company’s share of the market in the third quarter surging to 40.7 percent. This was up from 35.4 percent in the previous quarter.

The research company said that Samsung’s double-digit growth was “all the more remarkable” given that overall DRAM market revenue in the third quarter actually declined slightly to $10.72 billion, down 0.6 percent from $10.78 billion.

“Samsung has been vocal about its desire to expand its DRAM market share to as high as 50 percent,” said Mike Howard, senior analyst for iSuppli. “The third-quarter results show Samsung has put its money where its mouth is. By investing heavily in expanding production and advancing its manufacturing technology, the company has been able to cut pricing and to eat into the market share of its competitors.”

And things are only getting better for Samsung with iSuppli saying that it expects Samsung to continue to gain share in 2011 as it presses its market-share campaign. In fact, its only problem may be how much share its largest PC OEM customers will allow it to take. There’s also the problem of how long the company can continue to cut prices and how much it can increase its dominance before government regulators raise anti-competitive concerns, Howard said.

Samsung

The  DRAM industry faces a very challenging 2011. Not only do other manufacturers need to advance their manufacturing technology as aggressively as Samsung—an expensive and technically difficult task—they must also keep wafer output at current levels at the very least, iSuppli said.

As prices continue their descent, some manufacturers could also find their production costs rising above their average selling prices.

“It looks like the DRAM industry could very well be heading for consolidation, with some competitors being acquired or getting forced from the market,” Howard added.  

One DRAM player singled out by iSuppli for failing in this quarter was Micron Technology, which posted the worst performance among the Top 5 DRAM suppliers, with a  revenue of $1.1 billion, down 21.4 percent from $1.4 billion in the second quarter. While the company maintained the No. 4 market position, its share fell to 10.5 percent, down from 13.3 percent in the second quarter.

iSuppli put this down to production challenges at its Inotera facility. However, it’s not all bad news with the company predicting that Micron will not lose further market share in 2011 and might actually expand its position slightly. It said Micron’s DRAM wafer production will grow in 2011 due to the significant uptick in utilisation anticipated at Inotera.

After Samsung, the next best performance among the Top 5 DRAM suppliers was posted by fellow South Korean semiconductor supplier Hynix Semiconductor, which saw its revenue dip by just 2.9 percent to $2.25 billion, down from $2.31 billion in the second quarter.

 

Graphics memory industry to decline as graphics integrated with CPUs

The graphics memory industry is expected to see its share of the DRAM market decline over the next few years due to an accelerated trend towards integrating graphic capabilities into CPUs for PCs.

The industry is expected to grow only slightly at the beginning of next year, making up 5 percent of the overall market for memory in the first quarter of 2011.  According to iSuppli, the industry will begin its decline in the final quarter of 2011 before seeing its market share reduce to 4.4 percent in 2014.

The reason for the decline is that, while high-end graphics will still require a dedicated video card with advanced memory in order to support gaming and similar activities, the majority of functions required by most users do not seek such functionality.

An integrated approach where graphic functionality is embedded into a motherboard and utilises the system memory found in a computer is expected to be adequate for the majority of tasks.

“While graphics memory commands a price premium and is more stable in demand compared to commodity DRAM, the market is not projected to grow dramatically in the future,” said Mike Howard, senior analyst for DRAM at iSuppli. “In the coming years, demand for graphic memory will ease as manufacturing trends favour the integration of the graphic processing unit (GPU)—the microprocessor responsible for rendering 2-D or 3-D images—into a computer’s CPU.”

iSuppli notes that Japanese firm Elpida is beginning the production of memory technology specific to graphics known as GDDR3 and GDDR5.  While Elpida may have only a small share at the moment it is expected to shake up the industry. iSuppli predicts that firms such as Samsung and Hynix may be forced to surrender market share.

It is also expected that while graphics memory will continue to be demanded by game-console makers and high-end graphics cards, the appearance of integrated products could threaten the GPU market.

With the release of Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform for integrated graphics by Intel next year, such disruption looks increasingly likely.

Tessera sues Sony and Renesas

Sony and Renesas have received summons from Tessera Technologies’ learned fiends, alleging that they breached a patent it owns.

Tessera specialises in minituarisation tech for electronic devices on chip, 3D and wafer level packaging.

The patent in question is 6,885,106 – a different patent to the one under discussion by the US International Trade Commission (ITC). Tessera CEO Henry Nothhaft said that licence agreements it had with Sony and Renesas have expired, but the companies continue make products using the tech.

It’s not the only legal case Tessera is connected with. Yesterday it sued UTAC, a Taiwanese company  for breach of contract.

And there is another case waiting for appeal, while Tessera is also pursuing ATI (now AMD), Freescale, and ST Microelectronics.

Then there’s a case over DRAM against Acer, Centon, Elpida, Nanya, Powerchip, ProMOS, Ramaxel, Smart Modular Technologies and TwinMOS.

Then there’s a case against Hynix, which is waiting for a trial date.  Then there’s several patent re-examinations in train too.

Does all this sound a little like Rambus? 

HP announces collaboration with Hynix

HP has announced that it has entered into a joint development agreement with semiconductor company Hynix to bring its memory resistor (known as memristor) building block into future memory products.

HP has said the two companies will jointly develop new materials and process technology to transfer the memristor technology from research to commercial development in the form of Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM). This is non-volatile memory with low power consumption that holds the potential to replace Flash memory currently used in mobile phones and MP3 players. It also has the potential to serve as a universal storage medium – that is, memory that can behave as Flash, DRAM or even a hard drive.

Hynix will implement the memristor technology in its research and development fab.
    
Memristors are said to require less energy to operate, are faster than present solid-state storage technologies and can retain information even when power is off. The memristor was postulated to be the fourth basic circuit element by Prof. Leon Chua of the University of California at Berkeley in 1971 and first intentionally reduced to practice by researchers in HP Labs, the company’s central research arm, in 2006.

However, earlier this year, HP announced that the memristor could also perform logic, and this suggests that memristor-based devices could change the standard paradigm of computing by allowing computation to one day be performed in chips where data is stored, rather than on a specialised central processing unit.

R. Stanley Williams, a HP senior fellow and founding director of the information and quantum systems laboratory in the company’s research unit, said Hynix was selected in part because it had not already selected another future memory technology. “Other companies we talked to have already made large investments in other technologies,” he said. “They were reluctant to start yet another new technology development effort.”

Image Credit: R. Stanley Williams, HP Senior Fellow and Director, Information and Quantum Systems Lab, HP Labs