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Elpida buyout would make Micron major Apple chip supplier

Micron may become a major supplier of memory chips to Apple if it completes the purchase of Japan-based Elpida, the third-largest memory chip manufacturer.

Micron on Thursday confirmed that it is in discussions to acquire Japan-based Elpida, one of the largest memory chip manufacturers in the world.

"Micron confirmed it is engaged in discussions with Elpida Memory's trustees to acquire Elpida's business," the Boise, Idaho-based chipmaker said in a statement.

Elpida was formed in 1999 when NEC and Hitachi merged their memory chip businesses. But the price volatility of the memory market eventually took its toll, and the company filed for bankruptcy in February with $5.6 billion of debt, despite having become the world's third-largest maker of memory chips.

Elpida has been a major supplier of memory to Apple and was a leading DRAM supplier for the third-generation iPad.

"We note that Elpida was a primary vendor of mobile DRAM for Apple," wrote Glen Yeung, an analyst at Citigroup, in a research note earlier this week.

Yeung continued, "We suspect Apple may have influenced Micron's bidding in an effort to avoid disruption to their mobile DRAM supply," he wrote.

Yeung puts the proposed purchase price of Elpida at around $2.5 billion.

"Elpida recently undertook a bidding process to select a company to 'sponsor' Elpida during its Corporate Reorganization proceedings and to acquire the company's business. In that process, Elpida has decided to move forward in negotiations with Micron as the potential sponsor," Micron said.