* TI $172.5 mln stalking horse bid for Qimonda assets
* Auction set for Sept. 23 if other bidders emerge
* TI shares up 0.95 pct (Adds background details, analyst quote, share price)
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del., Aug 21 (Reuters) - Texas Instruments Inc TXN.N has struck a deal to buy assets of a bankrupt unit of chipmaker Qimonda AG QMNDQ.PK for $172.5 million, setting the initial bid in a potential auction, according to court documents.
TI would be buying manufacturing equipment at the Richmond, Virginia, chipmaking plant of Qimonda Richmond, a U.S. unit of Germany’s insolvent memory chip maker Qimonda AG.
The agreement, known as a “stalking horse bid,” would set the floor for an auction to be held on Sept. 23, should other bidders emerge, according to documents filed late Thursday with Delaware’s bankruptcy court, which must approve the bid.
In February Qimonda Richmond filed for bankruptcy, along with another U.S. unit, Qimonda North America.
Jefferies analyst Adam Benjamin said in a research note that if TI were the ultimate buyer of the assets, it would be positive news, as it would allow the chipmaker to “inexpensively add” manufacturing capacity.
Qimonda Richmond said it had assets and liabilities in excess of $1 billion when it filed for bankruptcy.
The German parent company, the world’s fourth-biggest maker of the DRAM memory chips that are used mainly in PCs, filed for insolvency in January as a result of huge industry price drops and a global financing squeeze.
Spokeswoman Kim Morgan said TI, a maker of analog chips used in items as diverse as cars and consumer electronics, is seeking to buy manufacturing gear for its analog chip business and not planning to re-enter the memory chip market.
Morgan said in an emailed statement that if the deal were completed, TI would likely have the world’s first 300 millimeter analog wafer fabrication facility, “providing TI a significant manufacturing cost and scale advantage.”
“In general, TI’s strong balance sheet allows us to make significant strategic moves in weak economic environments such as today’s to significantly strengthen our long-term position in our core product lines,” according to the email.
TI shares were up 23 cents or 0.95 percent at $24.34 in late morning trade on New York Stock Exchange.
The case is In re Qimonda Richmond LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 09-10589. (Reporting by Tom Hals, with additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gerald E. McCormick)