Broadcom plans $100b Qualcomm bid to build chip behemoth

Broadcom Corp. signage is displayed outside of the company's headquarters in Irvine, California, U.S., on Friday, April 12, 2013. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Broadcom Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan is contemplating an audacious $100 billion bid for Qualcomm Inc., people familiar with the matter said, using what would be the largest technology takeover to build a powerhouse that dominates the market for wireless chips.

An offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous discussing a private transaction that could still not come to fruition.

Buying Qualcomm would transform Broadcom into the third-largest chipmaker, behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co., and make it the leader in chips used in the more than 1 billion smartphones sold each year. The combination would dwarf Dell Inc.’s $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2015 — then the biggest in the technology industry — and meld Qualcomm’s dominance of chips that connect handsets to wireless networks with Broadcom’s expertise in chips that link devices to Wi-Fi networks.

“The deal makes a lot of sense,” Romit Shah, an analyst at Instinet, said on Bloomberg Television. “Broadcom would be getting $30 billion in revenue and it would be very strategic. Both companies have a significant presence in smartphones.”

Qualcomm shares rose as much as 19 percent in New York in their biggest intraday move since October 2008, after Bloomberg News first reported the takeover plans. They closed up 13 percent at $61.81, valuing the company at $91 billion. Broadcom rose 5.5 percent, for a market valuation of about $112 billion. Representatives for Broadcom and Qualcomm declined to comment.

A serial acquirer, Broadcom’s Tan has played a pivotal role in a wave of consolidation engulfing the $300 billion semiconductor industry over the last three years. Broadcom, created in 2016 when Avago Technologies Ltd. acquired Broadcom Corp. for $37 billion, has built itself from a former Hewlett Packard division into one of the largest chipmakers via a string of purchases. A former CEO of Integrated Circuit Systems who has held senior management positions at Commodore International, PepsiCo Inc. and General Motors Co., Tan has made it plain that he wants to strike more deals.

Tan, who holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Harvard Business School, laid the foundation for future dealmaking on Thursday. In a widely broadcast announcement alongside U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Tan said he will move Broadcom’s headquarters to the U.S. from Singapore.

Broadcom, which counts Apple Inc. among its largest customers, already lists San Jose, California, as a corporate co-headquarters.

Still, analysts said the domicile change would make it easier for Broadcom to launch deals from the U.S. and complete its $5.9 billion takeover of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Announced last November, that transaction has been delayed at least three times by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a panel that reviews the security risks of foreign acquisitions of American companies.

“The decision is rooted in the company’s strategy to pursue M&A and in the political reality that it has become more difficult for overseas-based companies to acquire US ones,” said  Mark Lipacis, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. “We would not be surprised to see Broadcom continue to pursue large acquisitions.”

Qualcomm finds itself in a weakened state. It’s embroiled in a legal battle with Apple that has taken a toll on revenue and jeopardized a business model that made Qualcomm one of the most successful chipmakers. Before today, its shares had slumped 16 percent this year, compared with a 41 percent surge in the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

At issue between Qualcomm and Apple are licensing fees the chipmaker charges for patents that cover the basics of how mobile phone systems work. Apple contends Qualcomm is unfairly charging too much and illegally taking advantage of its market position in chips. To heighten pressure on Qualcomm, Apple has stopped paying the licensing fees and is planning to designing devices that exclude Qualcomm’s chips, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Qualcomm has countered that Apple, one of its largest customers, has lied to regulators in an unfair attempt to bully its opponent into charging less. It has filed lawsuits seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones in China, the world’s largest phone market.

A change of management at Qualcomm might help resolve the dispute with Apple more quickly, and thereby make Qualcomm’s licensing and chip businesses more valuable, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Stacy Rasgon. Earlier this week, Qualcomm executives said the legal process would “proceed under the court’s schedule,” indicating no resolution soon.

“Maybe they have a better relationship with Apple, maybe they settle,” Rasgon said.

Whatever the outcome of the Apple dispute, San Diego-based Qualcomm is also confronting headwinds in closing its $47 billion purchase of NXP Semiconductors NV. The deal is facing regulatory scrutiny in Europe and opposition from some shareholders including activist hedge fund firm Elliott Management Corp., which has argued the offer undervalues NXP.

Like Tan, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf is spending time with the Trump administration. Mollenkopf is taking part in the President’s trade mission to China later this month, according to a company spokeswoman.

Aside from the financial challenges of such a large deal, Broadcom may also encounter close regulatory scrutiny. Based on 2016 revenue, the enlarged company would be the world’s third-largest chipmaker behind Intel and Samsung. That would give it control of a big part of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top 10 providers of chips in an industry that’s consolidating rapidly.

Bloomberg

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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