* Atheros valued at $45/shr
* All-cash merger expected to close in first half 2011
* Qualcomm shares up 1 pct, Atheros shares up 1.3 pct
(Adds analyst comment, customer and product details)
NEW YORK, Jan 5 Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) plans to
buy Atheros Communications Inc ATHR.O for roughly $3.2
billion in cash, showing its determination to become a major
player in supplying chips for smartphones and tablet
Qualcomm is clearly betting the deal -- at a 21.6 premium
to Atheros' share price before talk of the takeover began to
circulate this week -- will beef up its position in mobile
devices, a market expected to explode in 2011 with new tablet
computer offerings to compete against Apple's (AAPL.O) iPad.
Qualcomm is already a major player in making microchips
that handle data crunching and voice communication in phones.
But until now, it has made less progress on its own in
developing chips tablet PCs that incorporate advanced
With Atheros, it is buying a key producer of chips used in
WiFi, bluetooth and ethernet networking, along with GPS
systems. Its chips appear in a suite of electronics devices,
including networking equipment, personal computers, mobile
telephones, mobile gaming devices, televisions and printers.
The company's two biggest customers are Hon Hai Precision
Industry Co. (2317.TW) and Nintendo Co. 7974.OS, according to
its most-recent annual report. Others include Apple Inc
(AAPL.O), Dell Inc DELL.O, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ.N) and
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O).
Qualcomm said on Wednesday it will pay $45 per share for
Atheros. The New York Times reported the potential acquisition
on Tuesday, sending Atheros shares up 18.9 percent to $44 on
the Nasdaq. In early trading, Atheros shares rose 58 cents to
$44.58, and Qualcomm shares rose 51 cents to $51.48.
Based on 71.6 million outstanding Atheros shares as of Oct.
20, the acquisition is worth $3.2 billion. Qualcomm said the
"enterprise value" of the transaction is $3.1 billion.
Daniel Amir, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets,
pointed to three positives in the deal for Qualcomm: It could
become a "big combo chip player in the handset or tablet"
market; it gets access to Atheros' strong customer lineup; and
it quickly gets a shot to expand into new markets, including
Still, Amir said in a research note, "We recommend taking
money off the table. With the shares trading at close to the
$45 potential bid, the stock price has surpassed our fair value
Amir added,"We believe the risk-reward is balanced at these
levels - this is not a judgment on the quality of the bid. We
are aware that there is potential for a bidding war if others
make an offer and we may even see an offer of (around) $50."
Craig Barratt, Atheros' chief executive, is expected to
become president of Qualcomm Networking and Connectivity
following the merger.
Qualcomm expects the acquisition to close in the first half
of this year, and add "modestly" to earnings per share in its
2012 fiscal year excluding items.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Paul Thomasch in New York;
Editing by Derek Caney, Dave Zimmerman)