Orange County Business Journal

Western Digital Gets Final Regulatory Approvals for Hitachi Buy

Chris Casacchia Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Western Digital Corp. expects its $4.3 billion buy of San Jose-based Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. to close on Thursday, ending a year of negotiations with U.S. and international regulators.

The Irvine-based disk drive maker and Hitachi said in a joint statement they obtained “all required regulatory approvals” to acquire Hitachi’s holding company, Viviti Technologies Ltd.

The companies are expected to provide more information on the deal upon closing.

The buy is the priciest in Western Digital’s 42-year history and promises to boost market share in drives for corporate networks—the most profitable part of an industry largely known for commodity products.

The acquisition was set to make Western Digital the undisputed leader in drives but widespread floods that devastated large areas throughout Thailand have made that unlikely.

Thailand is the world’s second-largest producer of disk drives, behind China, and also a major supplier of hard drive components. Western Digital ships about 60% of its disk drives from Thailand, where it has 37,000 employees.

Cupertino rival Seagate Technology LLC overtook Western Digital in disk drive unit sales in the fourth quarter, ending a title Western Digital maintained for more than two years.

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.

The long-awaited approvals came a year after Western Digital announced its bid to acquire Hitachi, part of Japan-based Hitachi Ltd.

The company agreed in late November to a series of conditions to gain approval from the European Union, including selling off its business of 3.5-inch hard disk drives, including a production plant and related assets.

The Federal Trade Commission voiced similar antitrust concerns this week and said it would grant approval after these conditions were met. Chinese regulators raised similar objections in December, saying the deal could shift the competitive landscape to the detriment of consumers in China.

Late last month, Western Digital agreed to sell off its business of 3.5-inch hard disk drives to Toshiba Corp., clearing the regulatory hurdle.

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

As part of the deal, Western Digital will acquire Toshiba Storage Device Company Ltd. in Thailand, which hasn’t regained its hard drive manufacturing operation since heavy flooding late last year damaged many regions in the country.

Financial terms of the Toshiba deals were not disclosed.

The Hitachi acquisition was first set to close last September.

Western Digital shares are up about 1% in early afternoon New York trading to a market value of about $8.8 billion.