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Innovate and invest

Sept 22,2017
Toshiba is reportedly ready to hand over its prized flash memory business to a consortium led by Bain Capital and multinational technology giants including SK Hynix. The U.S.-Japanese-Korean consortium has beaten equally formidable groups including Toshiba’s memory partner Western Digital.

Toshiba was the first to develop the nonvolatile memory chip that is now in ever-growing demand due to widening applications of big data and automation. Its memory business is the world’s second biggest after Samsung Electronics.

SK Hynix, whose mainstay is volatile memory that requires power to store memory, can strengthen its NAND business through its share in the Toshiba consortium. SK Hynix is the world’s second largest in dynamic random access memory, but fall out of the top five for NAND flash.

But SK Hynix has limited voting power due to antitrust issues. It will have a secondary stake by lending money to Bain, which will get the biggest share of 49.9 percent. The chipmaker, however, would gain a favorable position in the ongoing super cycle in the semiconductor industry due to evolution toward automation and digitalization. It would be invited to Toshiba’s rich supply chain that includes U.S. smartphone and computer giants Apple and Dell. It would not have to fret about patent infringements through its stake in Toshiba.

The two chipmaking entities also could collaborate in research and development in flash memory. Its market share won’t be helped since SK Hynix is not directly involved in the acquisition. But Korea’s reputation as a chip powerhouse would be cemented.

SK Hynix’s steadfast pursuit of the Toshiba business also would deal a blow to China trying rigorously to build its semiconductor and display industry. To stay ahead in the cutting-edge business of chip and display making, enterprises must not stop innovating and investing.

Korea Inc. could weather trade protectionism and retaliation through innovations and competitive products.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 21, Page 34