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Analog Devices near deal to buy Maxim for US$17b

[NEW YORK] Analog Devices Inc is close to an all-stock agreement to acquire Maxim Integrated Products Inc, according to people familiar with the matter.

The semiconductor companies are talking about a deal that values San Jose, California-based Maxim at more than its current market capitalization of roughly US$17 billion. Norwood, Massachusetts-based Analog has a market value of US$46 billion and also has a large office in the San Jose area. The deal could be announced as early as Monday, though discussions could still fall apart, said the people, asking not to be named discussing private negotiations.

Representatives for Analog Devices and Maxim declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the negotiations.

Acquisitions are starting to return after a lull of several months caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes on the heels of Uber Inc announcing a US$2.65 billion deal for Postmates Inc, Allstate Corp agreeing to a record US$4 billion takeover of National General Holdings Corp and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc spending roughly the same amount on a gas pipeline and storage assets.

Some chip deals have either been delayed or abandoned if they require approval in China, the world's largest market for semiconductors. The process has been complicated by the ongoing trade war between China and the US.

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Analog Devices is currently less than half the size of market leader Texas Instruments Inc by revenue. While Maxim wouldn't allow it to close the gap totally, it would broaden the range of products in the analog portfolio, something that Texas Instruments has touted as helping to cement its dominance.

All three companies specialize in analog and embedded computing components. Once a sleepy backwater of the industry, this segment has enjoyed a resurgence as the list of uses and customers has grown in recent years. Analog chips convert real-world things like sound and pressure into electronic signals, and the rush to add automation to factory equipment and buildings and to move cars toward a world where they won't need human drivers has stirred new demand.

It's also a very profitable area of the chip industry. Analog Devices and Maxim have gross margins, or the percentage of sales remaining after deducting the cost of goods sold, in the region of 65 per cent.

Since 2015, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index has tripled in value. The benchmark index now has a market capitalization of more than US$1.5 trillion. Over that same period, chip companies have been increasingly consolidating to help them lower costs and serve customers that have done the same. Their earnings have become more predictable and their cash generation has provided them with war chests and the ability to carry debt they couldn't have sustained in the past.

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