Orange County Business Journal

China Raises Concerns on Western Digital Deal

Chris Casacchia Tuesday, December 27, 2011

China reportedly has raised antitrust concerns over Western Digital Corp.’s proposed acquisition of San Jose-based Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Ltd.

Shang Ming, who leads the country’s Ministry of Commerce’s antimonopoly bureau, told Bloomberg on Monday that the agency will look for ways to ease concerns that the deal could shift the competitive landscape to the detriment of consumers in China.

The setback for Irvine-based Western Digital is the latest delay facing the disk drive maker’s pending $4.3 billion deal. It comes less than two weeks after Hiroaki Nakanishi, president of Japan-based Hitachi Ltd., parent of Hitachi Global Storage, voiced concerns about further delays in the planned sale.

Hitachi said it postponed the sale after a European Commission said it needed more time to assess the deal, which originally was expected to close in the fourth quarter.

The deal has been pushed back to at least March and possibly beyond, according to Hitachi.

In late November, Western Digital agreed to a series of conditions to gain approval from the EU, including selling off its business of 3.5-inch hard disk drives, including a production plant and related assets.

The divestiture would also include the transfer or licensing of intellectual property rights, the transfer of personnel, and supply of certain disk drive components.

The commission said the original terms of the deal would have allowed Western Digital to face competition only from Cupertino-based rival Seagate Technology LLC in the 3.5-inch disk drive market, furthering antitrust concerns.

Hard-disk drives store and allow access to data. Western Digital’s disk drives go into computers, external storage devices, corporate networks and consumer electronics such as DVR players.

Seagate offered $1.4 billion for Samsung Electronics Co.’s disk drive business in April. The EU commission recently approved that deal.

China approved Seagate’s acquisition earlier this month after the companies reached an agreement aimed at maintaining competition.

Western Digital shares are down more than 2.5% in afternoon New York trading to a market value of about $7.35 billion.