Samsung Electronics, the world's top phone maker, has agreed to buy the mobile chip operations of Cambridge, U.K.-based CSR PLC for $310 million, as well as buy a $34.4 million equity stake in the company in an investment that reportedly amounts to a 4.9 percent interest.
The move will allow Samsung to gain access to intellectual property as well as protect its own back on an increasingly litigious landscape, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"I expect the deal for CSR's technology and patents has two primary goals: to strengthen Samsung's own Exynos SoC technologies and thus allow the company to more clearly differentiate their products, and to offer Samsung protection against potential litigation from competitors."
"Both issues are important," King said.
"The first relates to the company's market positioning, of course. But given the continuing courtroom drama between Samsung and Apple (as well as IP-related suits among other IT vendors), it's clear that litigation has become an increasingly common tool for promoting your own or quashing competitors' products. If CSR's assets can help Samsung avoid or triumph in those situations, the deal will have been well worth the cost."
Apple and Samsung have traded lawsuits over patent infringement, with Apple seeming to have the edge: It succeeded in having Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Nexus temporarily banned in the United States by a California judge. (The Nexus ban has been stayed for a month.)
The deal gives Samsung control of development of chips for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, while maintaining control of its chip-making for televisions and audio equipment, according to press reports of the deal. If approved by South Korean regulators, it would be completed by the fourth quarter of the year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the deal hands over 21 U.S. wireless patents.
Prospering in Handset Market
In a statement to Reuters news service, Stephen Woo, president of System LSI Business of Samsung's Device Solutions unit, said the deal would help his company improve application processors used in its own phone as well as rivals like Apple. "By leveraging CSR's R&D capability, Samsung will strengthen its application processor platform and solidify its position as a leading semiconductor solutions provider," he said.
In a statement, CSR CEO Joep van Beurden said, "I believe that under Samsung's ownership, the handset operations will be in a better position to prosper in the global handset market."
On its Web site, the company said the deal "immediately increases CSR's focus on its five high growth markets of Voice & Music, Automotive Infotainment, Indoors Location, Imaging and Bluetooth Smart; accelerates its higher margin platform strategy and improves CSR's overall market position." The statement also said CSR would return $285 million in proceeds to investors.
CSR, or Cambridge Silicon Radio, was founded in 1999 and has 2,525 employees in 12 countries, including the U.S., India, China, Korea, Denmark, Japan and Israel.