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Infineon would bring Intel valuable radio know-how and top 10 handset relationships

by Sravan Kundojjala | May 17, 2010

Intel is said to be in talks with Infineon to buy latter's wireless chip business unit. Of course this not the first time we heard about Infineon's wireless chip division rumors. Previously Samsung, NXP and ST Micro were also reported as potential buyers of Infineon's wireless chip business.

Previously Intel invested in the wireless handset chip business but divested it to Marvell. That time Intel was more focused on the application processor and was less focused on the baseband processor. So what's changed? Strategy Analytics believes that the growth in the mobile broadband is a key factor and Intel definitely needs a modem know-how to participate in this market. Intel is a key player in the WiMax market but lacks 3G and LTE baseband technology. Currently the company ships 3rd party modems in its Atom chipsets but in the long-term it would be beneficial to own modem technology to integrate it in its future Atom CPUs. Last year Intel acquired Freescale's France-based wireless operations and also licensed 3G / HSPA modem technology from Nokia.

Strategy Analytics believes that Infineon could be a good partner to companies looking for RF expertise and baseband customer relationships. Infineon's wireless business looks well settled after the company divested its Qimonda stake.

Here are some quick facts about Infineon's wireless business based on Strategy Analytics data.

* Infineon's wireless chip revenues represented close to 30% of its total revenues in calendar year 2009 and 25 percent in Q1-2010.

* Infineon's wireless chip products include basebands, RF transceivers, power management ICs, connectivity ICs (Bluetooth, GPS, and WLAN) and platform solutions.

* Infineon's baseband revenues represented close to 53% of its wireless chip revenues in 2009. * The company has baseband / RF customer relationships with almost all of the top-10 handset OEMs.

* Infineon ranked fourth with 11% unit shipment share in the $11.0 billion cellular baseband market in 2009.

* Infineon's wireless business has been profitable for the last four consecutive quarters. The company had just 2.5% operating margin in its wireless business in 2009.

* Despite its impressive baseband and RF product portfolio, the company currently lacks stand-alone application processors. It remains to be seen whether Infineon will go it alone or partner with Intel. We believe that it would cost $3-$5 billion for Intel to acquire Infineon's wireless business.

- Sravan Kundojjala

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