Looks like AMD might be putting itself up on the auction block. Quoting three unnamed sources, Reuters reports that AMD has retained the services of banking firm JPMorgan Chase to "explore options." One of those options: a "potential sale" of the chipmaker.
According to Reuters, some investors speculate that AMD could be sold—either partly or fully—to a firm eager to replicate Apple's unified approach to hardware and software development. (Remember, Apple designs its own chips for iDevices nowadays.) Candidates reportedly include Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Intel, and... Facebook. Yes, Facebook. Don't ask.
That said, Reuters' sources think "an outright sale of the company is not a priority." Instead, AMD might be more keen on selling off its patent portfolio—valuable ammunition in today's highly litigious tech industry. Even if AMD sought to pursue a complete sale, finding a buyer might be difficult. Reuters says one of its sources characterized AMD as a "legacy company" that may be an unappealing acquisition target due to its "dependence on the PC industry and lack of strong mobile offerings."
Those are unkind words, but not entirely inaccurate ones. Both Intel and AMD are struggling to compete with cheap, low-power ARM-based processors these days. While Intel finally managed to squeeze an Atom chip inside a modern smartphone earlier this year, AMD doesn't have anything like that on its public roadmap. The company has disclosed plans to diversify into ARM-based chips, but the first products from that initiative aren't due until 2014—and, as far as we know, they'll be aimed only at servers.
AMD's current financial situation might not be sustainable, in any case. Last month, the company announced a $175 million quarterly loss and a plan to lay off 15% of its work force—its second round of downsizing in less than a year. (The company shed 10% of its staff last November.) AMD shares closed at $2.01 yesterday, down from $5.95 a year ago.
Update 7:23 PM: Reuters had updated its story with an official response from AMD. The response reads, "AMD's board and management believe that the strategy the company is currently pursuing to drive long-term growth by leveraging AMD's highly-differentiated technology assets is the right approach to enhance shareholder value. AMD is not actively pursuing a sale of the company or significant assets at this time."
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