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Sails serenely into profit after restructuring

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DRAM and NAND flash manufacturer Micron recorded a $204m million profit in its first fiscal 2010 quarter, contrasting vividly with a $718m loss in the year-ago quarter.

Revenues were higher at $1.74bn, compared to $1.4bn in the first fiscal 2009 quarter but costs were sharply down as well. The cost of goods sold went from $1.85bn a year ago to $1.3bn, and selling and general administrative expense improved from $102m to $97m over the same period.

The first quarter of fiscal 2009 saw a lot of restructuring to lower costs, followed by the closure of 200nm wafer manufacturing at Micron's Boise plant in the next quarter. The latest quarter also saw sales improvements, compared to the preceding fourth quarter of fiscal 2009.

Revenue from DRAM product sales increased 50 per cent in the first financial 2010 quarter compared to the fourth quarter due to a 25 per cent increase in sales volume and a 21 per cent increase in average selling prices.

Revenue from sales of NAND Flash products increased 21 per cent in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter due to a 16 per cent increase in sales volume and a five per cent increase in average selling prices. The company’s gross margin on sales of memory products improved from 12 per cent in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 to 27 per cent in the first quarter of fiscal 2010 due primarily to the increases in average selling prices.

As well as the market improving, Micron is also strengthening its technology. This month it introduced a very fast solid state drive (SSD) using the 6Gbit/s SAS interface, and moved to a 34nm process earlier in the year. The company also introduced new DDR3 DRAM technology and has said it will produce a PCIe-connected SSD for servers.

What does Micron CEO and chairman Steve Appleton think this portends: "Our technology, cost competitiveness and strong balance sheet will provide a great foundation for taking advantage of improving market conditions.”

According to iSuppli, Micron ranked fourth in the global NAND flash market in the third calendar quarter of 2009 with its $305m, after Samsung (1 with $1.55bn), Toshiba (2 with $1.36bn) and Hynix (3 with $394m). Its partner in IMTF, Intel, was fifth with $240m revenues. Numonyx was sixth with just $90m. At one point this year, it was speculated that Micron might even acquire Numonyx.

Flash supplier consolidation would help the industry better prepare for the next downturn and control its manufacturing capacity better. We might end 2010 with fewer suppliers in the iSuppli rankings than there are now. ®

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