Sat, Nov 05, 2011 - Page 10 News List

New AMD chief executive laying off 1,400 workers

SLUGGISH MARKET:The cuts, representing about 12 percent of the firm’s 12,000 workers, come as the PC market struggles with competition from mobile devices

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD) is cutting about 1,400 workers as a weak computer market and manufacturing delays have hurt the world’s second-biggest maker of microprocessors for PCs.

The layoffs announced on Thursday amount to about 12 percent of the company’s 12,000 workers and are the first big move by AMD’s new CEO, Rory Read, who was hired from Lenovo Group in August. The cuts will unfold over the next five months.

AMD is struggling with an industrywide problem: PC sales growth, particularly in the US and Europe, has been anemic because of the weak economy and competition from smartphones and tablets.

Although PC shipments continue to grow, the pace is slowing sharply — and more than market research firms IDC and Gartner Inc expected. That has raised concerns about the strength of the market going into the holiday shopping season.

Most of AMD’s business is in chips for PCs. It doesn’t have a meaningful presence in smartphones and tablets.

Read’s job in large part is to help devise a strategy for AMD to penetrate computing markets where it and rival Intel Corp have been largely absent. The battle has taken on a new dimension as AMD’s and Intel’s market share in PCs has reached a steady balance for years — Intel’s chips are in about 80 percent of the world’s PCs, and AMD’s are in essentially the rest.

Not having much presence in mobile devices has hurt AMD more than Intel because of its smaller size, and it was a key reason AMD ousted Read’s predecessor, Dirk Meyer, in January.

Meyer in some ways had an excuse: He was orchestrating triage as he tried to manage the company’s spinoff of its manufacturing operations while fending off Intel and overseeing the launch of an important new type of chip for AMD. That chip can process sophisticated graphics and general data on the same piece of silicon, a technical achievement.

Meanwhile, the rise of mobile devices is benefiting chip makers such as Qualcomm Inc and Texas Instruments Inc whose processors are designed to consume less power.

A variety of financial struggles has led to several rounds of layoffs at AMD in recent years. It let about 3,300 workers go in 2008 and 2009. Contributing to Thursday’s announcement were manufacturing problems that have postponed the shipment of AMD’s newest chips, which it calls “accelerated processing units.”

The layoffs and other unspecified operational changes are expected to save US$200 million next year.

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