Atmel on the Block

June 09, 2015 // By Junko Yoshida
Atmel Corp. is on the block, looking for a potential buyer, Reuters reported Monday. If true, the move feeds further fuel into the M&A frenzy currently affecting the global semiconductor market.

Atmel, a mid-sized chip vendor with revenue last year of $1.41 billion, is known for its automotive and industrial MCU and touch-sensing technology. In addition, the company provides security technology such as encryption chips for car keys. Atmel’s latest pitch to the investment community is that its strategy — banking on the emerging Internet of Things market – has transformed it into a higher-margin, higher-growth business.

During the company’s earnings call last month, Steven Laub, president and CEO, announced his plan to retire at the end of August. He told financial analysts, “Today, the company is comprised of very desirable businesses: microcontrollers, wireless, touch, security and automotive, all of which are positioned to grow in attractive high growth markets.”

Citing two unnamed sources, Reuters reported that Atmel has retained investment bank Qatalyst Partners to help with the sale process.

Some speculate that the retirement of Atmel's longtime CEO might be a factor driving the company's decision to explore alternatives.

During the last earnings call, Laub was asked to comment on NXP’s planned acquisition of Freescale, a deal expected to make the combined entities the world’s second largest general-purpose microcontroller vendor, after Renesas.

Laub said, “With respect to industry consolidation, there is no doubt that there has been a lot of that occurring over the past at least last couple of years, and I think the sense is there will be some continuation of that this year as well.” However, he quickly added, “That hasn't had any influence on my decision to retire.”

Beyond MCUs and touch solutions, Atmel has been busy beefing up its wireless connectivity portfolio. Last July, Atmel bought Newport Media, a provider of advanced WiFi and Bluetooth solutions.