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Advanced Micro Devices agreed to pay US$35-billion in stock for Xilinx, a deal aimed at reshaping one of the computer chip industry’s pioneers.

AMD, known mainly as Intel’s long-time rival in microprocessors that power most computers, plans to use the acquisition to broaden its business into chips for markets such as 5G wireless communications and automotive electronics. The transaction could also help AMD grab a bigger share of component sales for data centres and counter a prominent rival, Nvidia, which is also bulking up.

The all-stock deal, announced on Tuesday along with AMD’s third-quarter financial results, would be close to the most valuable acquisition in the chip industry’s history. Those bragging rights are currently held by Nvidia for its proposed US$40-billion deal for British chip designer Arm, which was announced last month.

Chip makers have experienced several consolidation waves, driven by factors such as duplicate product lines and cost-cutting strategies. But AMD, which is enjoying some of the most robust sales in its 51-year history, expects Xilinx to expand its business while boosting profits.

Lisa Su, AMD’s chief executive, said in prepared remarks that Xilinx would help establish her company as “the industry’s high-performance computing leader and partner of choice for the largest and most important technology companies in the world.”

That sort of reputation has long eluded AMD, which for decades was seen as an Intel follower that mainly won sales with lower prices. But the company has lately grabbed a lead over Intel in some key measures of computing performance, while its larger rival has suffered technological and financial stumbles.

Last Thursday, Intel reported a 29-per-cent decline in quarterly profits, which caused its stock to fall more than 10 per cent. AMD, by contrast, reported Tuesday that its quarterly profit rose by 148 per cent.

AMD’s stock, which was trading five years ago at US$2 a share, has risen nearly 80 per cent this year and closed Monday at slightly more than US$82. AMD’s market value stands now at nearly US$100-billion.

Xilinx, founded in 1984, is the biggest maker of a class of chips that can be reconfigured for a variety of specialized tasks after they leave the factory. Such field programmable gate arrays, as they are called, have long been particularly popular in telecommunications applications, such as cellular base stations now being upgraded for the latest 5G technology.

Xilinx has also been one of the biggest chip companies hurt by trade limits on China’s Huawei, a major maker of networking equipment that is one of Xilinx’s biggest customers. The company last week said that revenue declined 8 per cent.

But Xilinx’s gross margins are much higher than AMD’s, and the company continues to generate considerable cash. Xilinx’s market value currently stands at US$28-billion, reflecting a sharp jump after the Wall Street Journal reported deal talks between the companies on Oct. 8.

AMD’s interest in Xilinx emulates a path taken by Intel. In 2015, Intel entered the same business by paying US$16.7-billion for Altera, Xilinx’s main competitor. That deal, inspired partly by the prospect of producing Altera chips in Intel factories, has failed to generate big returns as Intel’s manufacturing processes have fallen behind rivals.

AMD relies heavily on external manufacturing partners, as does Xilinx – particularly Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which has grabbed a lead in packing smaller transistors on each chip. Both companies also have pushed new technologies for creating new products from packaging multiple chips together.

The proposed transaction dwarfs AMD’s most significant past acquisition, a US$5.4-billion deal for ATI Technologies in 2006 that took the company into competition with Nvidia for chips that render images in video games. That graphics technology would make AMD a major supplier of chips for video-game consoles. But it also saddled AMD with a heavy debt load that took more than a decade to erase.

AMD reported about US$1.7-billion in cash at the end of September.

The companies said the deal was expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Victor Peng, Xilinx’s chief executive, will continue to lead the operation after the close of the deal, the companies said.

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