Broadcom Corp. once again led a hiring surge this year at the county’s largest chipmakers,but the company doesn’t expect the growth to continue.
The Irvine-based communications chipmaker topped this week’s Business Journal list of largest chipmakers by OC employees and added 231 local workers during the past year, a 14% gain for a total of 1,848 employees.
Last year, Broadcom also did the most hiring of any chipmaker here, adding some 170 jobs.
The company, which prides itself on nabbing the best and brightest engineers, is set to hold steady the coming year.
“We are not entirely immune from the current issues present in the economy,” Chief Executive Scott McGregor said in a conference call with analysts. “We have limited our headcount additions in most areas to replacements of departing employees.”
Overall, the top 20 chipmakers here posted a gain of 6% for a total of 4,615 workers. Without Broadcom’s contribution, the list would have only seen a 1% gain.
Eight of the companies posted gains, three were flat, three lost workers and six were Business Journal estimates.
This year’s list looks different from last year’s,mainly due to a wave of consolidation and other moves that saw struggling chipmakers shed unprofitable businesses.
Nearly a quarter of the companies on last year’s list have been bought in the past 12 months.
The deals include buys of three startups and two midsize players.
The biggest deal involved No. 2. Newport Beach contract chipmaker Jazz Semiconductor Inc., which last month was bought by Israel’s Tower Semiconductor Ltd. for about $170 million in stock and debt.
Before the sale, Jazz’s board had been looking at “strategic alternatives” to raise its slumping stock, which was off some 50% from a year earlier and trading at less than $1 a share at the time of the deal.
Executives at one point determined Jazz needed to double in size to compete with bigger rivals.
Jazz has 710 workers here, unchanged from a year ago.
Tower executives have said that Jazz’s local operations are set to stay in place, but it’s still unclear if cuts could be on the horizon.
Acquisitions of startups have dominated local deals, mainly because fierce competition has pushed smaller companies out of the market, according to Derek Lidow, chief executive of El Segundo-based market tracker iSuppli Corp.
In December, No. 17 Irvine’s u-Nav Microelectronics Corp., a maker of GPS chips and software, was bought by Santa Clara-based Atheros Communications Inc. for $54 million. U-Nav has an estimated 35 workers here.
In August, No. 13 Foothill Ranch-based Aristos Logic Corp., which has an estimated 65 workers here, sold to Milpitas-based Adaptec Inc. for $41 million in cash.
A few other startups have scooted up the list.
They include two makers of cell phone chips: No. 15 Irvine’s WiSpry Inc., which more than doubled its local workforce for a total of 50, and No. 14 Lake Forest’s Newport Media Inc., with an estimated 60 workers here.
No. 3 Irvine’s Microsemi Corp., a maker of chips for military, aerospace and industrial customers, has come out as a consolidator in the down market.
The company paid $25 million a few months ago to buy its longtime rival Costa Mesa-based Semicoa Semiconductors Inc., which this year got folded into Microsemi’s entry.
“For the smaller companies, it’s difficult to survive only as a product line,” said Microsemi Chief Executive Jim Peterson. “You are better served becoming a division within a larger company.”
Microsemi is set to dismantle Semicoa’s 47,000-square-foot plant and move the bulk of its chip fabrication equipment to Ireland.
It cut some 60 Semicoa jobs in the process.
No. 4 Newport Beach’s Conexant Systems Inc. slipped down one spot on the list and shed about 40 jobs locally.
The company has been through nearly two years of restructuring that’s seen it halt investment in unprofitable businesses and streamline operations to focus on ones that are afloat.
Earlier this year conexant sold its business making chips for set-top TV boxes for up to $145 million to NXP Semiconductors, the former chip arm of Royal Philips Electronics NV.
At the time the deal was announced, Conexant said about 700 of its workers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Israel are set to join NXP.
No. 9 Irvine’s Teridian Semiconductor Corp. moved up four spots on the list and added a dozen workers for a total of 87.
The company added engineers to keep up with demand for chips for electricity meters, a part of its business that’s “seeing very nice growth,” Chief Executive Gerald Fitch said.
“We are continuing to expand our electricity metering product family, as well as other markets that deal with energy efficiency,” he said.
Teridian has some 50 electricity meter manufacturers around the world as customers, Fitch said.
No. 6 Newport Beach-based Mindspeed Technologies Inc. cut a handful of jobs in the past year in a bid to cut costs.
The company has 260 workers here, down 4% from a year ago.
“We shifted some resources from sales, general and administrative functions and transitioned some of the spending we do there to help fund some research and development,” said spokesman Tom Stites. “As management saw the economic slowdown coming, it decided to get out in front and make some cuts early on.”
The move is expected to save Mindspeed about $3 million a year.
“If business continues to decline, we have to keep our options open,” Stites said. “Our goal is to stay at least at breakeven.” n