Intel to Acquire Tower for $5.4 Billion

Intel and Tower Semiconductor (based in Migdal Haemek, Israel), announced a definitive agreement under which Intel will acquire Tower for $53 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately $5.4 billion. The acquisition supports Intel’s IDM 2.0 strategy to build a foundry services business. “Tower’s specialty technology portfolio, geographic reach and deep customer relationships will help scale Intel’s foundry services and advance our goal of becoming a major provider of foundry capacity globally,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO.

As a key part of its IDM 2.0 strategy, Intel established Intel Foundry Services (IFS) in March 2021 to become a major provider of U.S.- and Europe-based foundry capacity to serve customers globally. IFS currently offers leading-edge process and packaging technology, and a broad intellectual property (IP) portfolio. The transaction is expected to close in approximately 12 months. It has been unanimously approved by Intel’s and Tower’s boards of directors and is subject to regulatory approvals, including the approval of Tower’s stockholders.

Tower Semiconductor provides a broad range of customizable process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management (BCD and 700V), and MEMS. It owns two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm), three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm) which it owns through its 51% holdings in TPSCo and is sharing a 300mm manufacturing facility being established in Italy with ST.

“With the addition of Tower, Intel is strongly positioned to bring more value to customers across the nearly $100 billion addressable foundry market.”

“Taking Mobileye public is admitting Intel’s failure”

Intel’s intention to take Mobileye public in mid 2022, less than 5 years after its acquisition, continues to resonate and raises questions regarding the direction its current CEO, Pat Gelsinger, is leading the company. In light of the major importance Intel attributed to Mobileye in its future plans, it seems that the expected offering is not a single move; rather it is a sharp u-turn from the strategy led in the past years by the two former CEOs.

In a recent conversation with Techtime, Sergey Vastchenok – Senior Equity Analyst at Oppenheimer Israel explained that the expected offering is the price Intel pays for its mistakes in recent years. “In the recent years, Intel lagged behind its major competitors in the manufacturing world, mainly TSMC and Samsung, with regard to capital expenditures (Capex). This process led Intel to lose its technological advantage”.  

“New CEO, Pat Gelsinger, who grew within Intel and is part of its genetics, came with a vision of reviving its past market dominance, and he did so by massively increasing investments in the company’s organic capabilities”.

Sergey Vastchenok, Oppenheimer Israel

The diminution in Intel’s status is reflected very clearly in its share performance in recent years. In the past 5 years, Intel’s share raised by only 47% whiles the Philadelphia Stock Exchange (PHLX) index, grouping leading chip companies, raised by 354%. Nvidia and AMD, Intel direct competitors, raised by 1300% within the same period.

Vastchenok: “Intel plans to invest 20-25 billion annually in the coming years to restore the lost advantage. Since the company is deficient with cash, the main question is how to finance the planned increase in investments.  Increasing its debt may harm the company’s credit rating, while additional offering in the stock market may weaken its already weak share. The best method of raising funds is to start selling assets”.

Mobileye is a perfect asset to sell

According to Vastchenok, selling Mobileye is a rational step, since its market value is considerably high, and since there was never a real synergy between the two companies’ core activities. Not only there was no real synergy, one may say that it was even a negative one, since Mobileye buy its chips from TSMC and not from Intel. This led to the situation where Intel financed Mobileye’s development strategy, while TSMC benefit the production orders”.   

“Mobileye is a growing business, and is considered a pioneer and a leader in the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) world. Yet, it is still difficult to forecast its revenues and its market share in the future autonomous vehicle world, since there are many competitors nowadays. Every technology giant is joining the game. At this situation, if the market is willing to pay a good price for your assets – you better sell. If Intel is going to make it public at the mentioned price, it could significantly enlarge its cash reserves. This move will do well for both Intel and Mobileye. Mobileye has better chance to prosper outside Intel’s wings. As we can see, since it was acquired by Intel they have lost plenty of quality human resources, the same way Intel lost human resources for its competitors”.

What is the future of Moovit?

Selling Mobileye raises questions regarding the future of other companies bought by Intel in the recent years. In May 2020 Intel acquired Moovit – the Israeli public transport platform – for $900 million. This surprising acquisition presented as another step in Intel’s vision to provide Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) services in the future, based on Mobileye’s autonomous vehicles and Moovit’s application. In fact, it seems that the real synergy is between Mobileye and Moovit. “Almost all the acquisitions made by Intel at the past years, to include FPGA vendor Altera, were not related to the core activities of Intel. Taking Mobileye public is an admission of the failure of the acquisition strategy of recent years. It looks like the current CEO is being aware of Intel core expertise and what should they focus at”.

Intel Intends to take Mobileye Public

Above: Autonomous Driving car in front of Mobileye’s HQ in Jerusalem

the Intel announced its intention to take Mobileye public in the United States in mid-2022 via an initial public offering (IPO). Intel will remain the majority owner of Mobileye, and the two companies will continue as strategic partners, collaborating on projects in the automotive sector. The Mobileye executive team will remain, with Prof. Amnon Shashua continuing as the company’s CEO. Recently acquired Moovit as well as Intel teams working on LiDAR, radar development and other Mobileye projects will be aligned as part of Mobileye.

Jerusalem-based Mobileye provides computer vision chips, data analysis, localization and mapping solutions for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and autonomous driving. On August 2017 Intel completed the acquisition of Mobileye for $15.3 billion. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said that the acquisition of Mobileye has been a success. “Mobileye has achieved record revenue year-over-year with 2021 gains expected to be more than 40% higher than 2020. An IPO provides the best opportunity to build on Mobileye’s track record for innovation and unlock value for shareholders.”

In 2021, Mobileye shipped its 100 millionth EyeQ system-on-chip (SoC), scaled autonomous vehicle (AV) test programs across multiple cities around the world covering the U.S., Europe and Asia, unveiled its production robotaxi, and secured 41 new ADAS program wins across more than 30 automakers. Moovit is a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solutions provider that complements Mobileye’s solutions. The Tel aviv-based company was acquired by Intel on May 2020, for approximately $900 million.

The Mobileye executive team will remain, with Prof. Amnon Shashua continuing as the company’s CEO. Intel currently owns 100% of Mobileye shares and is expected to retain majority ownership following the completion of the IPO. Intel said it has no intention of spinning off or otherwise divesting its majority ownership interest in Mobileye.

Mobileye revenues surged 124% to $ 327 million

Intel’s Mobileye revenue in the second quarter of 2021 totaled $ 327 million, according to the quarterly report released by Intel last week. It represents an increase of 124% year-over-year, but a decrease of 13% compared to the previous quarter. Among all of Intel segments, the Mobileye division posted the highest annual growth in the second quarter .

During the second quarter, Mobileye closed 10 additional design wins in the automotive industry, for over 16 million total lifetime units. The most significant win was with Toyota, in which Mobileye and the german tier-1 supplier ZF  will develop for the Japanese automaker an advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) based on a new automotive radar developed by ZF and Mobileye’s computer-vision chip, EyeQ4. The system is intended to be integrated into several of Toyota’s models in the coming years.

Last week, Mobileye began test drives of AVs in New York, the first to receive a permit from the authorities to conduct such trials in the city. In the conference call following the quarterly report, Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger said Mobileye is leading the AV industry. “With vehicles in Israel, Germany, Detroit, Tokyo, Shanghai, and coming soon to Paris, Mobileye has the largest global footprint in the AV industry, enabled by our unique REM distributed mapping technology.”

According to Gelsinger by year end there will be over 1 million vehicles providing telemetry for dynamic crowd-source mapping. “It’s a unique and powerful advantage of Mobileye.”

Intel and Mobileye develop LiDAR in a Chip

Mobileye announced during CES 2021 this week that it has produced the first prototype of an Automotive LiDAR sensor based on Intel’s Silicon Photonics technology. The new sensor is planned to be installed in its Autonomouse Driving systems in 2025, when the market will be ready for a mass deployment of AVs. According to Prof. Amnon Shashua, President and CEO of Mobileye, the new sensor is based on Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology and Doppler-style algorithms as opposed to the current Time of Flight sensors.

The FMCW sensor provides 4D velocity relative measurements for a distance of up to 300 meters. Its high resolution detection capability reaches 600 points per degree, created by 2 milliom laser pulses per second (2M PPS). The idea is that current approaches and available sensors are too expensive for consumer AVs. Mobileye needs Radars and LiDARs that are both better and cheaper. To reach L5 autonomy it propose three levels of redundancy in the forward-facing field of view (FoV), and for the rest of the FoV, 2 levels of redundancy.

In this scenario, the EV system consists of 360⁰ camera coverage, 360⁰ Radar cocoon and one forward-facing LiDAR sensor. In fact, Intel owns a unique Fab capable of putting active and passive optical elements on a chip together, including lasers and optical amplifiers, loaded onto a photonic integrated circuit, PIC.

The goals for the future radar chip are also very agressive: It will be a software-defined imaging radar eqipped with 2,304 virtual channels based on 48 by 48 transmitters and receivers. This radar will be able to detect motorcycles beyond 200m, old tire on the road, 140 meters away and low and small hazards on the road.

Electrified employee? Don’t sweat it. It’s only a VR…

Above: Engaging learning at Intel. “Young people today live and breathe technology. It can’t be ignored”

Virtual reality (VR) is often associated with gaming and leisure. Intel, however, decided to take the technology in another direction – training employees (mainly in the operation and safety), as an alternative for the oldschool classrooms or educational software. Intel’s Corporate Services Learning & Development group is responsible for about 250 courses designed for large target populations at Intel sites around the world.

Adva Goldman, manager of the group, told Techtime that about 11,000 Intel employees receive every year an electrical safety course developed by her team. “We decided to develop new technological tools for tutorials, since studies have shown that experiential and active learning is significantly more effective than frontal lectures or the use of educational software that keep students passive.”

Accurate digital model of the electrical room

“Young people today live and breathe technology. That cannot be ignored. We must adapt to the environmental and technological changes,” said Goldman. “About eighteen months ago, we conducted an experiment: we developed a course in electrical safety with the help of Compedia, which takes place using a virtual reality accessory in which the employee personally experiences performing real tasks.

As part of the course, we created an accurate digital model of the electrical room at Intel. The employee will perform tasks similar to the ones he’ll deal with during his daily routine, such as maintenance activities but also will be asked to deal with new situations. We’ve designed the tasks with failures and challenges that the employees must identify and overcome in order to progress in the course.

Adva Goldman: “When the experience is very realistic, the knowledge will remain over time”
Adva Goldman: “When the experience is very realistic, the knowledge will remain over time”

“The experience is very similar to reality. As one of the electricians who made a mistake during the course told us: ‘Oh my God, I almost died. I will never forget it!’”. The course was enthusiastically welcomed and Intel has set up 6 VR rooms around the world. But then came 2020: exactly when it seemed that the training division at Intel had developed a successful method for training employees, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily delayed the project. These VR rooms are now closed, since most of Intel’s employees are now working from home.

The game of training

But according to Adva, the group has not stopped working, and is developing additional VR courses for the day after the corona virus. Meanwhile the training team decided to take an innovative gaming approach: “We developed a learning experience in Ergonomics which is built in the format of a computer game that will be distributed to all Intel employees by the end of this month. We also exploring additional ideas, such as using a personal VR kit that can be sent to employees’ homes, and will replace some of the need for dedicated VR rooms. We also study the use of Augmented Reality combined with Virtual Reality. There is clearly a change in the perception of training at Intel.”

Intel and Lightbits Labs enter into a Strategic Collaboration

Above: Avigdor Willenz, founder of Lightbits Labs, Habana Labs, Annapurna and Galileo Technologies

Intel Corp. and Lightbits Labs from Kfar-saba, Israel, will co-develop new storage solutions for the data center. Intel announced an agreement for a strategic partnership includes technical co-engineering, marketing collaboration and an investment of Intel Capital in Lightbits Labs.  “The data center is being transformed,” said Remi EL-Ouazzane, Intel’s Data Platforms Group chief business development officer. “Our hardware capabilities coupled with Lightbits NVMe over Fabrics software gives our joint customers an exceptional economic solution.”

Lightbits NVMe/TCP protocol separates storage and compute without touching the network infrastructure or data center clients, and thus enables to reduce the latency of direct-attached NVMe SSDs by up to a 50%. Its LightOS provides a software-defines management of the entire distributed database. According to the agreement, Lightbits Labs will enhance LightOS for Intel’s technologies, to create an optimized software and hardware solution. The system will utilize Intel hardware solutions such as Optane memory, 3D NAND SSDs based on Intel QLC Technology, Xeon processors, Intel Ethernet Network Adapters and its FPGAs.

In addition to the technical collaboration, Lightbits and Intel are collaborating to provide complete solutions. They already started: Lightbits Labs demonstrated LightOS NVMe over Fabrics TCP (NVMe-oF/TCP) storage with remote direct memory access (RDMA)-class performance, when accelerated with the Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapter with ADQ technology. It reported the results: up to 30% improvement in response time, up to 50% reduction in average latency and up to 70% throughput increase.

Founded in 2017, Lightbits Labs worked until mid 2019 in a stealth mode. Only in April 2019 and after raising $50 millions, it exposed it first product. The company was founded by the chairman Avigdor Willenz, the CEO Eran Kirzner and the CTO Sagi Grimberg. Avigdor Willenz is a serial entrepreneur. He is also currently the Co-founder and chairman of Habana Labs, which develops solutions for artificial intelligence and deep-learning computing and was sold to Intel in 2019 for $2 billion. Earlier in his career, he had co-founded Annapurna Labs (sold to Amazon for $370 million).

His first semiconductor’s exit was the selling of his startup Galileo Technologies Marvell in 2001 for $2.7 billion. Eran Kirzner came from PMC-Sierra where he served as VP for Software & Solutions in the Enterprise Storage Division. Sagi Grimberg came from Mellanox Technologies (now owned by NVIDIA). In his last position there he served as the Storage Software manager of Mellanox.