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Asyst taken apart, one robotic arm at a time

30 July 2009 | By Mark Osborne | Editor's Blog

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Spartan, EFEMAlthough booth numbers were seriously down at SEMICON West this year, one company that was in attendance was surprisingly, Asyst Technologies. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection back in April and ever since I had picked up rumours concerning potential acquirers as well as more pessimistic tones of a complete collapse and fire sale, which would be happening in the not too distant future!

From the days I spent on the show floor the picture of what was to happen to Asyst gradually materialized. Think of a jigsaw puzzle and the little bits of info being pieces of that puzzle. Eventually all the pieces were put together and it’s an interesting picture to boot.

The big chunk of Asyst’s business had been the AMHS (Automated Material Handling Systems) division, which had Toshiba as a customer and was the overall market leader. That business was sold to Japanese rival Murata for US$110 million. Not a bad price!

The fab equipment automation software business would seem to have been purchased by rival the Peer Group and would also seem to be a good fit. That could have gone for several US$ million but didn’t pick-up at the show exactly what the figure was.

The other very interesting sell-off was the robotics arm (pun intended). Ironically I had originally dismissed this particular development as the actual company purchasing the Spartan sorters etc… was a start-up and expected them to want to keep cash in the bank rather than spend in these troubled times.

However, I was talking to an ex-Asyst employee (several years departed) in the Moscone hallways and he was adamant that Crossing Automation had acquired that part of Asyst and change from US$8-10 million.

This would seem to be a smart move from this company as it will inherit a broad OEM customer portfolio as well as direct access to some major IDM’s and foundries that use Spartan’s and such like.

One of the biggest hurdles for equipment start-ups is getting traction as the industry is very conservative. I for one will be watching out for Crossing Automation as they could start to gain market share is certain segments against Brooks Automation.

Fabtech recently did a product review on Crossing Automation and I was impressed with the simplistic yet highly intelligent technological approach. A classic case for pushing 300mm productivity and cost reduction strategies, especially when 450mm is a long way away.

Even with a few loose ends, Asyst has been sold off in three parts and I can only assume will now be closed down after a big chunk of the debts are paid from the sold assets. Not a nice end for Asyst but at least the products will survive and hopefully prosper in the future.

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Asyst says unsolicited offer was previously rejected - 29 February 2008

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Update: Asyst CEO resigns: Asyst to be delisted from NASDAQ this week - 27 April 2009

Asyst targeted by former founder in hostile group takeover bid - 25 February 2008

Reader comments

Yeah $110 millions is not a bad price...if you don't have huge debts of course. It's a bad thing to see a good company like this is closed.
By Mike Trevor on 31 July 2009

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