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SanDisk, Samsung ink flash license, supply deals

Posted: 01 Jun 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SanDisk Samsung deal? 3D? flash memory?

SanDisk Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd have agreed to cross-license their flash memory semiconductor portfolios. Samsung also agreed to continue to supply SanDisk with a guaranteed portion of its flash memory production.

The new agreements become effective when the current cross-license and supply agreements expire on August 14, and will run for seven years from that date. The cross-license agreement includes rights to each party's patents broadly covering multi-level cell flash memory and flash storage systems, but does not license either party's patent claims specific to 3D memory technology.

Over the seven years of the incoming license the estimated effective rate of the fixed payments and

royalties is expected to be approximately half of the effective rate in recent years under the current license. However, the companies did not state who was expected to be the financial beneficiary and nor were other financial terms of the agreements disclosed.

"We believe that they [the agreements] represent good value for our stockholders and enable both parties to focus on the growth markets at hand," said Eli Harari, chairman and CEO of SanDisk, in a statement.

"We are excited about our opportunities in mobile, computing and consumer flash storage markets. Furthermore, continued access to Samsung's flash capacity under competitive terms gives us greater flexibility in managing our future capital expenditures for captive capacity. We look forward to a constructive relationship with Samsung in the years ahead," he added.

Oh-Hyun Kwon, president of Samsung's semiconductor business, said: "It is clear that these renewal agreements are aimed at strengthening the on-going business relationship between Samsung and SanDisk, and we are pleased that the two companies have worked hard to achieve a significantly improved balance on the patent license."

Good news
One analyst was upbeat about the deal. "The agreement removes uncertainty that has hovered over SanDisk's story and should give investors more clarity with regard to SanDisk's long-term business model and prospects," said Daniel Amir, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets.

At one time, it was unclear if Samsung and SanDisk would sign a deal. The previous agreement was near the end of its life.

Samsung once viewed the licensing fees as too high. In fact, the South Korean memory giant last year launched a hostile takeover for SanDisk in an attempt to avoid paying licensing fees. That bid failed, however.

"SanDisk and Samsung agreed to renew the cross-license agreement regarding their semiconductor patent portfolios at a rate of (about) 4 percent, slightly below our expectation of 5 percent but higher than Street expectations," Amir said. "The new patent cross-license agreement includes rights to each party's patents covering multi-level cell flash memory and flash storage systems. The agreement does not include either party's patent claims regarding 3D memory technology."

Bottom line: It could hurt SanDisk's bottom line. "We are currently modeling a 5 percent licensing rate, which we expect will be lowered to 4 percent, reducing our 2010 numbers by (about) $50 million," he added.

- Peter Clarke, Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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