Asyst Technologies Rebuffs Buyout Offer From Gores, People Say
By Jason Kelly and Ian King
Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Asyst Technologies Inc. rejected two approaches by a private-equity firm seeking to buy the Fremont, California-based maker of semiconductor-production equipment, according to two people with knowledge of the offers.
Gores Group LLC, based in Los Angeles, told Asyst in December and again this month that it would consider paying as much as $6 a share, or about $298 million, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the approaches were private. The stock has declined 67 percent to $2.60 since reaching a 2007 high of $7.76 in July.
Asyst's board decided the price was too low and the company could make more money for shareholders over the longer term, the people said. Private-equity transactions have slowed dramatically from last year's record $765 billion in deals as investors fled all but the safest government debt.
Potential sellers ``want to let things settle down,'' said Paul Schaye, managing director of Chestnut Hill Partners, a New York-based firm that helps buyout firms find investments. ``There's such volatility, people want to take a breath and see where things are going.''
Wellington Management Co., based in Boston, is the company's largest shareholder, with a 14 percent stake as of Dec. 31, according to regulatory filings. Asyst Chairman Stephen Schwartz owned 0.84 percent of the shares as of Nov. 2.
John Swenson, a spokesman for Asyst, and Gores Group spokesman Frank Stefanik declined to comment.
Compudyne, Tyco Unit
Gores Group is investing a $1.3 billion fund and typically eyes technology and communications companies. The firm, founded in 1987 billionaire Alec Gores, last year bought Compudyne Corp., a maker of security systems used in prisons, for $59 million and the power-systems unit of Tyco Electronics Ltd. for $100 million.
For its second approach, Gores teamed with Aquest Systems Corp., a Sunnyvale, California-based chip equipment maker whose chief executive officer, Mihir Parikh, was a founder and former CEO of Asyst. Aquest's investors include Menlo Ventures, the Menlo Park, California-based venture-capital firm formed in 1976 that raised a $1.2 billion fund in 2005.
Asyst's products are used by chipmakers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest maker of chips for other companies. The equipment moves and sorts disks of silicon in the process of turning them into computer chips.
Sales at chip-equipment makers fluctuate as chipmakers expand and reduce capacity based on their own customers' demands. Asyst's sales fell 16 percent to $106.5 million in its most recent quarter from the same period a year earlier.
Since peaking at $613 million in the fiscal year ended March 30, 2005, annual sales have fallen 19 percent to $492.5 last year. The stock reached a record high of $63.38 in March 2000, before the technology bubble burst.
Asyst is trading at about 6.6 times earnings, less than Applied Materials Inc., the world's biggest chip-equipment maker. Applied trades at almost 16 times earnings. KLA-Tencor Corp. trades at about 13 times earnings.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Kelly in New York at email@example.com ; Ian King in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org .