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Atmel hounded with buyout rumors

Posted: 20 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Atmel? microcontroller? buyout?

Atmel Corp. is again surrounded with rumors about a leveraged buyout, according to report from an analyst.

George Perlegos, founder and the former president, chief executive and chairman of Atmel, said last week that a Delaware court has approved his request for a special meeting of Atmel's shareholders. At the meeting, Perlegos, who owns a 5.3 percent stake in Atmel, said he will nominate a slate of five individuals to serve on Atmel's board, thereby replacing five other directors, including the current president and CEO.

"We see the ex-CEO activist's activity having minimal impact to the restructuring momentum," said Suji De Silva, an analyst with Cathay Financial, referring to Atmel's ongoing efforts to remake the company. "However, we do believe that this activity may spark discussions of an LBO-type transaction for Atmel."

The analyst did not name specific buyers in the report. Still, it's been a topsy-turvy period for Atmel. The company last year fired Perlegos, and three others over alleged misuse of corporate travel funds. At the time, Atmel named Steven Laub as president and CEO.

The power struggle at Atmel recently heated up, as Perlegos sued the company that fired him. The move to terminate its CEO was seen a driver to accelerate the company's much-needed restructuring efforts and could have even prompted another takeover offer, according to an analyst.

On March 15, Atmel responded to Perlegos' demands to change the board. The chipmaker pointed out that the Delaware Court of Chancery last month ruled in favor of Atmel in litigation brought by Perlegos and his brother, Gust Perlegos, challenging their termination for cause, finding that they were properly terminated and stating that "the Perlegoses have not demonstrated any right to hold any office of Atmel."

"Since the time Messrs. George and Gust Perlegos were terminated for cause, Atmel's Board and management team have taken important strategic actions to position Atmel for profitable growth," according to Atmel.

The company has also cut costs. For example, moving towards a "fab lite" strategy, Atmel late last year said it plans to sell two fabs and will reduce its headcount by 1,300 employees.

"We have refocused our resources on our high-growth microcontroller product lines. Our restructuring efforts are on track, and we are already beginning to realize the associated cost savings," Laub said in a statement. "We believe these are the right strategies for Atmel to better serve our customers, reduce manufacturing costs and enhance shareholder value. We are confident that our shareholders will continue to support the current board and management team, who are taking the necessary actions to capitalize on Atmel's strengths and drive shareholder value."

The record date for stockholders to be entitled to vote at the special meeting is April 5, 2007.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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