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Seagate Announces Quarterly Cash Dividend Increase by 39%, Share Repurchase of $1B

Seagate Technology plc (“Seagate” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ:STX) today announced that its Board of Directors (the “Board”) has approved an increase to its quarterly cash dividend from $0.18 per share to $0.25 per share, an increase of 39%. The increase is effective with the dividend payable on March 1, 2012 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on February 15, 2012. The payment of any future quarterly dividends will be at the discretion of the Board and will be dependent upon Seagate’s financial position, results of operations, available cash, cash flow, capital requirements and other factors deemed relevant by the Board.

Additionally, the Board has authorized the Company to repurchase an additional $1 billion of its outstanding common shares (the “January 2012 authorization”). The January 2012 authorization extends Seagate’s commitment to enhancing shareholder value by utilizing the robust cash generation ability of its business. To date, Seagate has utilized approximately $1.1 billion against the existing $2 billion share repurchase authorization approved by the Board on November 29, 2010 to repurchase 67.8 million shares. The remaining balance of the November 2010 authorization ($0.9 billion) is expected to be utilized by the end of fiscal year 2012 (June 29, 2012), market and other economic conditions permitting.

Seagate Technology Provides Preliminary Fiscal Second Quarter 2012 Financial Results

Seagate Technology plc today provided preliminary financial results for its fiscal second quarter ended December 30, 2011. The acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd's hard disk drive business closed on December 19, 2011 and these preliminary financial results include Samsung operating activity from that date.

The company shipped approximately 47 million disk drives, which included approximately 700,000 Samsung disk drives, and expects to report revenue for its fiscal second quarter 2012 of $3.1 - $3.2 billion. Before giving effect to charges related to the acquisition of Samsung's hard disk drive business that are not yet determinable, the company expects gross margin as a percent of revenue to be at least 30.5%, operating expenses (Product Development, Marketing and Administrative) to be approximately $390 million, and diluted outstanding shares to be 440 million.

HDD Vendors Want Long-Term Contracts with PC Makers

Well, it seems that the flooding in Thailand has done a lot more than destroy lives, wreck a few factories and cause HDD prices to shoot up. There appears to be a lot of opportunities for changing the terms of business too - to less favourable ones for customers of hard disc drives. First, we had the severe and unwelcome warranty reductions and now we have HDD manufacturers trying to lock branded PC makers into expensive long-term contracts, according to Digitimes. Some PC makers buy hard disk drives on a quarterly basis, at a fixed price, but now that prices have shot up and supplies restricted, HDD manufacturers are trying to coerce them into signing one year contracts at current high prices. However, it looks like it might not be such a good deal for PC makers, because the recovery in supply is continuing, with a full recovery potentially not so far away, which will of course make those prices plummet again. As it is, HDD shipments are projected to be around 140 million units in the first quarter of 2012, while the same quarter last year was 170-180 million units - so the fall isn't really that hugely less than before anyway and should become less severe as 2012 wears on.

One does get the impression that the HDD manufacturers are playing up the difficulty of restoring production volumes in order to give them a better bargaining hand. There's also the fact that recovering from the disaster is hugely expensive for them, so HDD makers will want to charge more to recoup those costs faster, motivating them to use tactics like these.

Seagate Finalizes the Acquisition of Samsung's Hard Drive Business

Seagate Technology has today announced that it completed the acquisition of Samsung Electronics' hard drive unit. Worth $1.4 billion, this deal covers the assets, infrastructure and employees of Samsung's HDD business and is supposed to boost Seagate's production capacity, R&D strength and customer access in China, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Germany and the Russian Federation.

As part of the agreement, Seagate will be supplying HDDs for Samsung PCs, notebooks and consumer electronics devices, while the South Korean giant will provide Seagate with semiconductor products needed for enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), solid-state hybrid drives and other products. Moreover, the two companies have signed an extended patent cross-license agreement, and have agreed to collaborate on the development of enterprise storage solutions.

WD Slashes HDD Warranties By A Third – But You Can Buy Them Back

Way back in 2008, we reported that Seagate was lowering warranties of its hard disk drives from 5 years to 3. This trend quickly spread throughout the HDD industry and unsurprisingly, wasn't something that customers were too happy about. Now, Western Digital is lowering the warranty on some of its HDD lines from 3 years to a mere 2, with the affected lines being the Caviar Blue, Caviar Green and Scorpio Blue. Lines not affected are the Caviar Black, Scorpio Black, A/V drives and externals. Also, as the stock feeds through the channel, there will be a transition period where the same model in a store will have either a 2 or 3 year warranty, depending on its serial number, which can be checked on WD's support site. It will be interesting to see if retailers will clearly differentiate to customers which drives have which warranty, as it might be rather convenient for them not to.

Channel partners have received a letter from SelectWD about this:

Seagate Technology Provides Updated Financial Outlook

Seagate Technology plc., updated its financial outlook for the December 2011 and March 2012 quarters. The company continues to believe that, due to the industry impacts caused by the extensive flooding in Thailand, hard disk drive supply will be significantly constrained for several quarters. For the December 2011 quarter, the company believes the industry will ship between 110-120 million units.

The company believes the industry's ability to manufacture and ship hard disks drives will gradually improve throughout calendar 2012. While this may alleviate some of the unit demand shortfall, it is expected that some companies will optimize unit shipments by manufacturing lower component count/lower capacity hard disk drives; thereby, only modestly offsetting the growing petabyte shortage. Because demand is estimated to significantly exceed supply during this time, pricing is expected to remain stable.

Seagate Announces Momentus XT Solid-State Hybrid Hard Drive for Notebooks

Seagate is now shipping the second generation of Momentus XT, its groundbreaking solid state hybrid drive for consumer and commercial laptops and the company’s fastest drive ever for personal computers. With a simple drive upgrade, users can boost boot-up speed and overall performance to turbo-charge their laptop PC. Seven original equipment manufacturers are gearing up to ship laptops powered by the Momentus XT drive. The drive is now available at online retailers Amazon, Canada Computers, CDW, Memory Express, NCIX, Newegg, and TigerDirect.

Powering the Momentus XT drive are Seagate’s Adaptive Memory and FAST Factor technologies. Adaptive Memory technology works by identifying data usage patterns, and then moving the most frequently retrieved information to solid state memory for faster access. Adaptive Memory effectively tailors hard drive performance to each user and the applications they use. FAST Factor technology blends the strengths of SSDs and hard disk drives for faster access to applications, quicker bootup and higher overall system speed.

Western Digital Reports Arbitration Decision, will Challenge the Award

Western Digital Corp. today reported that on November 18, 2011, an arbitration award of $525 million was rendered against the company by a sole arbitrator in a pending confidential arbitration action in Minnesota. The amount of the award does not include prejudgment interest, which will be subsequently determined. The award involves claims brought by Seagate Technology LLC against WD and one employee who was formerly employed by Seagate, alleging misappropriation of confidential information and trade secrets.

"We do not believe there is any basis in law or fact for the damage award of the arbitrator," said John Coyne, president and chief executive officer. "We believe the company acted properly at all times and we will vigorously challenge the award. This does not affect our ability to conduct our operations, to complete the recovery and recommencement of our Thailand operations or, subject to obtaining the required regulatory approvals, to consummate our planned acquisition of Hitachi GST."Source: Western Digital

LSI Implements SAS 12 Gb/s Interface

LSI corporation is the first to implement new serial-attached SCSI (SAS) 12 Gb/s interface, geared for future generations of storage devices that can make use of that much bandwidth. For now, LSI proposes SAS expander chips that distribute that bandwidth among current-generation storage devices. The company displayed the world's first SATA 12 Gb/s add-on card, which uses PCI-Express 3.0 x8 interface to make sure there's enough system bus bandwidth. This card can connect to up to 44 SAS or SATA devices, and supports up to 2048 SAS addresses. It is backwards compatible with today's 6 Gb/s and 3 Gb/s devices.

By making use of the 12 Gb/s SAS Expander solution paired with 32 current-generation Seagate Savvio 15.3K RPM hard drives, LSI claims 58% increase in IOPS compared to a 6 Gb/s host controller, because of better bandwidth aggregation per drive. There's also a 68% increase in bandwidth yield. The array of 32 hard drives could dole out 3106.84 MB/s on IOMeter, and more significantly, over 1.01 million IOPS. As big as this number seems, it could be an IOMeter bug, because the numbers don't add up. Perhaps it's measuring IOPS from disk caches.
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