Industry

10/20/2014 - Double Whammy: IBM Sheds Chip Unit As Financial Woes Hit Hard


By Tom Spring - CRN

IBM Monday said it will pay Globalfoundries $1.5 billion to take its money-losing chip unit off its hands as part of its push to shed unprofitable lines of business as it grapples with serious financial woes.

As part of the proposed deal, Globalfoundries agreed to supply IBM processors, which include the company's Power chips, for the next 10 years. The deal follows months of speculation that IBM was shopping around its chip-making business, which reportedly loses as much as $1.5 billion a year.

The deal was revealed just before IBM reported disappointing results for the third quarter, with sales falling 4 percent year over year to $22.4 billion. IBM also backtracked on its five-year profit goal of hitting $20 a share by 2015. IBM shares dropped 7 percent, or $13.16, to $169 on the news.

"We are disappointed in our performance," IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said in a prepared statement. “We saw a marked slowdown in September in client buying behavior, and our results also point to the unprecedented pace of change in our industry."

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., said the sale of its chip-making business will allow it to focus on more lucrative cloud, big data, analytics and software opportunities.

Channel partners have said IBM's struggling Power processor business needed a boost and that selling its chip manufacturing business was the best option to drive down pricing on the expensive chips and attract new customers to the Power platform. They have said the company's Power processor needs a lifeline as the latest Intel Xeon processor and emerging server threats from ARM pose serious challenges to the Power server platform.

"Today's announcement that Globalfoundries plans to acquire IBM's global commercial semiconductor technology business is one more step in the company’s reinvention," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group and Integrated Supply Chain, in a written statement.

That reinvention has included selling off low-margin parts of its business, including the sale of its x86 server and PC business to Lenovo for $2.3 billion. Reliance on Globalfoundries, Rosamilia said, will allow the chip maker to "innovate through high-volume semiconductor manufacturing, which is enhanced by economies of scale."

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