More than 30 months after the semiconductor industry saw a giant M&A wave kick off, buyout activity still hasn't slowed down much.
Driving much of the activity: Some big chip markets are still fragmented, and further consolidating them yields major cost synergies for the companies involved. Nowhere might this hold more true than in the splintered analog/mixed-signal chip market, which could easily see a slew of additional deals go down in 2016.
The Wall Street Journal and Japan's Nikkei reported overnight that Japanese chipmaker Renesas is in talks to buy U.S. analog and power management chipmaker Intersil (ISIL) for about $3 billion. A deal could reportedly be reached as soon as this month. Intersil's shares rose 19.8% on Monday, leaving the company with a $2.6 billion market cap.
Renesas, among other things, is a major supplier of analog and power management chips itself. And both Renesas and Intersil have decent exposure to an automotive market that has been a strong point for the chip industry, as infotainment systems, hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles and autonomous driving systems boost the auto industry's chip consumption.
There are some parallels here with NXP Semiconductors' (NXPI) - Get Report 2015 merger with Freescale: Both companies were large players in the microcontroller market, and pairing them created the world's biggest automotive chip supplier. One can also find similarities with Analog Devices' (ADI) - Get Reportrecent $30 billion deal to merge with Linear Technology (LLTC) : Both firms supply high-margin analog and mixed-signal chips, and service many of the same end-markets.
While these deals contain product synergies, it's hard to overlook the huge role cost synergies are playing in fueling M&A activity. Merging chipmakers have typically been able to remove many duplicate sales, administrative and R&D functions, and have also claimed to obtain greater bargaining power with common suppliers and customers.
Many of the smaller names in the analog/mixed-signal chip space that haven't yet been acquired could provide the same kinds of synergies to larger buyers. ON Semiconductor (ON) - Get Report , which has strong auto market exposure, is a plausible target. And if someone is able and willing to digest its $11 billion-plus market cap, so is Maxim Integrated (MXIM) - Get Report, a peer of Linear Technology's that reportedly held failed buyout talks earlier this year with ADI and Texas Instruments (TXN) - Get Report.
Looking at smaller names, Semtech (SMTC) - Get Report, which has begun seeing sales rebound following a rough couple of years, is a possibility. Others include MACOM (MTSI) - Get Report, which is well-exposed to the telecom infrastructure and aerospace and defense markets, IDT (IDTI) - Get Report, whose product line includes wireless charging and high-speed switching chips, and Inphi (IPHI) - Get Report, which has been steadily growing sales of its high-speed analog chips to telecom and data center clients.
A lot of M&A possibilities clearly exist. And that should remain the case until the number of chipmakers in existence diminishes or the factors that kickstarted the chip industry's M&A wave in the first place are no longer in place.