Elpida, chip prices help Micron

A $1.7 billion profit is mostly due to accounting gains and won't change plans to trim jobs globally.

krodine@idahostatesman.comOctober 11, 2013 

After two years of losses, Micron Technology announced its second consecutive quarter of profits on Thursday.

Nearly $1.5 billion of the announced $1.71 billion profit was credited to Micron's acquisition of bankrupt Japanese DRAM firm Elpida, which was completed in the middle of the quarter that ended Aug. 29.

The remaining profit, more than $210 million, was nearly five times higher than the $43 million the memory chip company netted in the previous quarter.

Local Micron workers will share in the profits. Employees in Boise and elsewhere will receive profit-sharing payments again starting in fiscal year 2014, which started last month, spokesman Dan Francisco said.

"Things look a lot better, at least on paper," said Mike Howard, a former Micron employee who is now an analyst in Boise for IHS, a market-research firm. "That doesn't really say they're doing anything particularly well. It just says that the gamble that they took on buying Elpida has paid off and paid off well.

"It's a little bit of skill and a little bit of luck. They're in a really good position now."

Asked whether the profits would likely soften the nearly 5 percent workforce cut Micron plans worldwide by the end of 2014, Howard replied, "I'm going to sound like a mean person, but I hope not. Just because you're making a lot of money doesn't mean you should have extra people hanging around."

IMPACT ON BOISE?

Micron spokesman Dan Francisco said the plan announced in August to cut 1,500 jobs over a 17-month period is still in place, but he stressed that it's a global figure.

The company will not say how many jobs will be pared in Boise or any other location.

The company employs about 30,000 people worldwide, including 5,600 at its Boise headquarters. Jobs will be cut by attrition, voluntary buyouts and layoffs, Francisco said.

None of the cuts will target the approximately 5,000 Elpida employees that Micron took on, the company said earlier.

"Companies like to say things like 'We're going to lay off 5 percent of our workforce' because Wall Street loves it," Howard said. "Local communities hate it."

Micron stock closed at $18.43 Thursday before the earnings were announced. That was up 28 cents for the day and was nearly $5 higher than the stock's close on the June day when Micron announced its first profitable quarter in two years.

But the stock price lost some ground in light after-hours training, hovering around $18.12 at 6 p.m. That's because the earnings report wasn't quite as good as some analysts predicted.

Most of the massive profit Micron reported Thursday comes from "accounting gains" made because the Elpida purchase price of $949 million fell below the assets' fair value of $2.43 million.

The fourth-quarter profit compared with a loss of $243 million in the same quarter a year ago. Net sales were $2.8 billion, up from $2 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The quarter was the final one in Micron's 2013 fiscal year.

The company's full-year profit came in at $1.19 billion, or $1.13 per share. That compares with a loss of $1.03 billion in the previous year. Sales were $9.1 billion, up from $8.2 billion.

Francisco offered some additional good news for Boise: The city's status as the company's research and development center is solid despite gaining an R&D plant in Japan as part of the Elpida purchase, he said.

Micron recently completed an 111,000-square-foot R&D complex in Boise.

MOBILE DRAM GAINS

"Micron is executing well on multiple fronts with the successful integration of Elpida and ongoing steady development of advanced memory solutions, including our hybrid memory cube that began sampling with key customers this quarter," CEO Mark Durcan said in a statement.

In a conference call with analysts, Durcan said, "Conditions remain favorable in memory industry fundamentals."

He cited strong cash flow and a "favorable supply-and-demand balance." Higher average selling prices helped.

Howard said Micron will likely continue to see profits of several hundred thousand dollars in the new fiscal year, largely because its Elpida purchase includes a dynamic random-access memory plant that makes sought-after chips for smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

"This adds a mobile DRAM component which gives them a full memory portfolio - as broad as anybody else's, or broader," he said.

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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