SanDisk stock surges on buyout rumors

Stock for flash memory maker SanDisk is up on rumors that a buyout by Samsung is in the works.

Updated at 5:00 p.m. with closing share price.

SanDisk for Sale? The stock price says so.

The world's largest maker of flash memory cards for digital cameras jumped 31 percent, or 4.18 points, Friday on rumors that Samsung would buy the company.

This follows a recent spate of rumors including one that said Seagate was interested in SanDisk. While Samsung already makes flash memory and is a leader in the emerging solid state drive market, Seagate does not sell SSDs and is looking to get into the market.

Samsung doesn't need SanDisk to grow; the South Korean company is already the world's largest supplier of flash memory chips, with Toshiba a distant second.

Some analysts find a buyout improbable. "We find it highly unlikely that Samsung would be allowed to buy SanDisk," said Avi Cohen, managing partner at Avian Securities. "It would be a great coup if they managed to pull this off because they would have a huge competitive advantage if they do," he said.

"Unfortunately, there's far too many regulators and the market share would be far too high," he added.

Cohen said that Samsung currently has a 40 percent share of the flash market. This would jump considerably with a SanDisk buyout.

Samsung pays more than $400 million annually to use SanDisk's flash memory patents, according to Bloomberg, citing a report from Lehman Brothers. So saving money in that area could possibly be a motive behind a Samsung buyout, Bloomberg said.

Moreover, the market has become much more competitive in the last month. Chip behemoth Intel got into the solid state drive market in August, as did Micron Technology.

And pricing for flash memory chips in 2008 has been brutal. Prices have been dropping precipitously, diving more than 50 percent.

A Samsung buyout of SanDisk would have other repercussions. Toshiba and SanDisk now cooperate closely in the manufacture of flash memory and jointly fund some flash plants in Japan. Untangling this relationship would ostensibly be complicated.

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