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WD Acquires Hitachi GST for $4.3 Billion

Leading hard drive manufacturer Western Digital said that it has entered into an agreement with Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) to acquire the latter company for approximately $4.3 billion in cash and stock.

Monday WD said that the resulting acquisition will produce a customer-focused storage company with "significant operating scale, strong global talent and the industry's broadest product lineup backed by a rich technology portfolio." It will also strengthen the company's position in the enterprise market, an area where businesses and consumers are moving their data to cloud-based solutions.

According to the agreement, WD will pay parent company Hitachi Ltd $3.5 billion in cash, and an additional 25 million WD common shares worth $750 million ($30.01 per share) as of March 4, 2011. This means that Hitachi will own around 10-percent of WD shares "outstanding after issuance of the shares." Two Hitachi representatives will also be added to the WD board of directors at closing.

WD said in a press release that the resulting company will retain the Western Digital name and remain headquartered in Irvine, California. John Coyne will remain chief executive officer of WD, Tim Leyden chief operating officer and Wolfgang Nickl chief financial officer. Steve Milligan, president and chief executive officer of Hitachi GST, will join WD at closing as president, reporting to John Coyne.

"The acquisition of Hitachi GST is a unique opportunity for WD to create further value for our customers, stockholders, employees, suppliers and the communities in which we operate," said John Coyne, president and chief executive officer of WD. "We believe this step will result in several key benefits-enhanced R&D capabilities, innovation and expansion of a rich product portfolio, comprehensive market coverage and scale that will enhance our cost structure and ability to compete in a dynamic marketplace."

Once the acquisition is complete, there will only be four key hard drive manufacturers left: Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and Samsung. Currently Western Digital is the industry's HDD leader, shipping 52.2 million units in Q4 2010. That will undoubtedly change as tablet adoption gains momentum in the coming years, thus possibly consolidating HDD manufacturers even more.