Western Digital buys SanDisk for $19 billion for its cloud driving flash

Disk CloudHard disk vendor Western Digital is to buy chip maker SanDisk for around $19 billion as the consolidation of chip-making industry continues.

Flash specialist SanDisk is one of the largest makers of NAND flash memory chips. The capacity of NAND Flash Memory products to store data in a small footprint, while simultaneously using less power but granting faster access to data, has made this technology particularly popular in the mobile, internet of things and data centre sectors, Increasingly, according to analysts, NAND is becoming the storage technology of choice in data centres that support cloud computing.

The market for NAND flash chips rose to $28.9 billion in 2014, according to IDC and SanDisk (with joint venture partner Toshiba) was the largest producer.

Meanwhile the market for traditional disk drives, where Western Digital is a market leader, is declining, say analysts. The commoditisation of hardware, driven by the software definition of data centres, has seen profit margins on sales decline, even if volumes are up.

Western Digital had a leading 44% share of the market for hard disk drives in 2014, according to statistics from market researcher IDC. However, it suffered a sales decline of 4% in its most recent financial year and the overall storage business also shrank, to $32.9 billion.

“With new storage companies coming through with all-flash systems based on consumer-grade substrate, it is not in WD or Seagate’s best interests to try and do economies of scale aimed more at the enterprise only,” said analyst Clive Longbottom, senior director at research company Quocirca. “By buying up consumer flash companies, they get that economy of scale for themselves.”

The disruption of the IT manufacturers by the cloud has changed the strategies of the encumbents like Western Digital, said Longbottom. “ Dell, HP, IBM and others do seem to be more worried about the new kids on the block than each other at the moment,” said Longbottom.

The cash-and-stock offer values SanDisk at $86.50 per share, or a total equity value of about $19 billion, using a five-day volume weighted average price ending on Oct. 20 of $79.60 per share of Western Digital stock. SanDisk’s shares rose 6.4% to $80 in pre-market trading. Western Digital’s shares were down 1.1% at $74.

The deal is expected to close in the third calendar quarter of 2016.