Sensing the future, TDK buys it

An article written by Junko Yoshida for EETIMES – TDK Corp. has enviable brand recognition. The problem is, it’s known for the wrong products. The TDK brand is tightly associated with magnetic tapes (audio and videocassette) and magnetic hard disk drive (HDD) heads. The company was founded in 1935 to market the world’s first manufactured magnetic material, ferrite. Given its heritage, TDK has ample reason to be proud of its magnetic personality.

In the era of digital streaming and cloud computing, however, TDK has had to diversify or risk irrelevance. The good news is that the company has had practice reinventing itself. For decades, it has been buying its way into new technology and product markets through mergers and acquisitions. TDK’s M&A maneuvers have nimbly shifted its portfolio, navigating the company through a series of treacherous market transitions without sinking its flagship lines.

Back in 1986, before the magnetic-tape market started to plateau, TDK engineered an acquisition of SAE Magnetics (HK) Ltd., a Hong Kong-based magnetic-head maker. By the early 2000s, the HDD head business was covering TDK’s losses in its dwindling magnetic-tape segment.

Nearly two decades later, in 2005, TDK acquired China’s Amperex Technology Ltd., the world’s leader in lithium-ion batteries. The deal, intended to strengthen TDK’s materials technology portfolio in the energy market, brought the company a leadership position in lithium-polymer batteries for mobile products.

TDK is now flexing its M&A muscles in the sensors segment.

In 2017, the company made its sensor ambitions clear when it spent US$1.3 billion to buy InvenSense (San Jose, California), a leading supplier of motion sensors. TDK has amassed a range of sensor technologies through acquisition, but the InvenSense deal was a watershed moment.

In an exclusive interview, CTO Dai Matsuoka recently told EE Times that, “except for CMOS image sensors, TDK now has almost all the pieces it needs to make a big play in the sensor market.”... Full article