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Home - Top News
November 16, 2011 3:51 PM

Rambus Plunges After Losing Jury Trial Against Hynix, Micron

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Rambus Inc. fell as much as 78 percent after it lost a $3.95 billion jury trial over its allegations that Micron Technology Inc. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. conspired to prevent its memory chips from becoming an industry standard.

A state court jury in San Francisco today by a 9-3 vote rejected Rambus's claims that Boise, Idaho-based Micron and Ichon, South Korea-based Hynix are liable for colluding to manipulate prices of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips in violation of California antitrust law.

Jurors found by the same vote, after deliberating since Sept. 22, that the two companies aren't liable for plotting to interfere with Rambus's business relationship with Intel Corp. and driving the world's largest chipmaker away from their collaboration on RDRAM, or Rambus-designed memory, that began in the 1990s.

'We are disappointed with this verdict as we believe strongly in our case,' Harold Hughes, president and chief executive officer of Rambus, said in an e-mailed statement. 'We do not agree with several rulings that affected how this case was presented to the jury and we are reviewing our options for appeal.'

Rambus said it would have made $3.95 billion in royalties without the alleged conspiracy. Under California law, a jury finding of antitrust damages in that amount would have been automatically tripled to $11.9 billion.

'Investment Thesis'

Trading in Rambus and Micron in New York was halted today after it was announced that the jury had reached a verdict. After trading resumed at 3:40 p.m., Rambus fell as much as $14.04 to $4.00 and Micron rose as much as 25 percent to $6.84.

After the verdict, the jury left the courtroom without taking questions from the press.

'The antitrust case was certainly a cornerstone of the investment thesis I had on Rambus,' Jeffrey Schreiner, an analyst at Capstone Investments Inc. in Menlo Park, California, said in an interview. Schreiner has had a 'buy' rating and $50 price target on Rambus shares. 'With this court decision, it becomes a lot harder to achieve that goal.'

He said the stock may fall to $10 in light of the decision, and that he's dropping coverage of the stock.

Hynix Chief Executive Officer O.C. Kwon said in an e-mailed statement the company is grateful for the jury's verdict, 'which rejected Rambus's meritless claim that Hynix was to blame for the failure of Rambus's proprietary RDRAM technology to become the standard for computer main memory.'

`Validates Our Assertion'

Steve Appleton, Micron's chairman and CEO, said in an e- mailed statement that the verdict 'validates our assertion that Micron acted in accordance with the law and consistent with its values of innovation and fair competition in the marketplace.'

Daniel Berenbaum, an analyst with MKM Partner LP who rates Micron as neutral and doesn't own shares, called the verdict 'an extreme outcome' and said it's a surprise to investors.

'We'd been talking about what would happen if there was a $500 million or $1 billion award,' Berenbaum said in an interview. 'I believe that a number of investors were waiting for this overhang to clear before they decided what to do with the stock.'

In the trial, which began in June, Rambus claimed that Micron and Hynix acted as a cartel to derail Intel's 1996 decision to collaborate on RDRAM as a solution to a computer- memory bottleneck.

Abusing Agreements

Micron and Hynix were accused of abusing agreements made in the 1990s to manufacture RDRAM by inflating its price and suppressing availability, eventually leading Intel to turn away from adopting and promoting Rambus memory as an industry standard.

Hynix and Micron built their case on claims that the Rambus-Intel relationship was undone by Rambus's hubris.

An Intel manager testified that Rambus refused to waive a contractual provision allowing it to block shipments of Intel processors that relied on the chip designer's technology if certain conditions requiring Intel to promote RDRAM weren't met. That refusal, and not collusion among the chip manufacturers, doomed Intel's vital support of Rambus, lawyers for Hynix and Micron told jurors.

Samsung Electronics Co., based in Suwon, South Korea, the world's largest maker of memory chips, was named as a defendant in Rambus's original complaint. Samsung agreed in January 2010 to pay $900 million to end all legal claims with Rambus and reach a new licensing deal over computer-memory technology.

Infineon Technologies AG, Europe's second-largest maker of semiconductors, was removed from the antitrust case when the Neubiberg, Germany-based company agreed in 2005 to pay as much as $150 million to settle all legal claims with Rambus.

The case is Rambus Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc., 04- 0431105, California Superior Court (San Francisco).

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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