When it comes to data storage, Western Digital has drive. The company is one of the largest independent makers of hard-disk drives (HDDs), which record, store, and recall volumes of data. It is also active in the fast-growing area of solid-state drives (SSDs), which are faster and lighter than HDDs. Drives for PCs account for most of Western Digital's sales, although the company also makes devices used in servers, cloud computing data centers, and home entertainment products such as set-top boxes and video game consoles. The company sells to manufacturers and through retailers and distributors and generates more than half its sales from the Asia/Pacific region.
Western Digital is structured around two subsidiaries: WD Technologies and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST). Each subsidiary maintains its own brand and product lines, with separate sales, marketing, operations, and product development teams. The company is looking to offer improved customer experiences for competing and complementary brands, while finding efficiencies in shared services.
The company's largest market is Asia (which represents about 55% of sales, including China's 30%). The US and the EMEA region each contribute about 20%.
Western Digital has manufacturing facilities in the US, as well as in China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand; it has sales offices worldwide.
Sales and Marketing
Western Digital offers its products to OEMs, as well as through distributors and retailers. The OEM customer segment is its largest (more than 60% of revenue), with Hewlett-Packard accounting for slightly more than 10% of total revenue. Distributors and retailers account for about 25% and 15% of sales, respectively.
Western Digital's sales have fluctuated in recent years as it has dealt with the worldwide economic downturn. Its acquisition of HGST helped produce strong results for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 (ended June 30). Momentum slowed in fiscal 2014, however, with sales falling slightly (1%) to $15.1 billion, primarily on a drop in hard drive average selling price ($58 in 2014, compared to $61 the previous year and $62 in 2012).
The company has seen some fluctuations in net income as well. After falling to $980 million in fiscal 2013 -- in large part because of $681 million in charges related to an arbitration award for claims of misappropriation of confidential information and trade secrets alleged by Seagate Technology -- net income rebounded in 2014 to $1.6 billion.
Cash flow from operations came in at $2.8 billion in 2014, down 10% as the company reported net cash used in working capital changes that year, compared to net cash provided by working capital changes the previous two years.
Western Digital is one of a handful of manufacturers that dominate the hard-disk drive market -- a sector characterized by harsh competition, short product life cycles, and aggressive price cuts. In order to reduce its dependence on drives for PCs, the company has branched into branded consumer media devices, including DVR expanders, portable media drives, and media players that let users play data from external drives on TV. Its WD TV Live Plus media player streams movies (including those offered by Netflix) and Internet video to a digital TV. It is also investing in products for the mobile computing and cloud computing markets. Products of these types accounted for 53% of revenue in 2014, up from 50% the prior year and just 36% in 2012.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Western Digital has long used acquisitions to add new product lines and extend its geographic reach. In 2013 it acquired Virident, a provider of sever-side flash storage products. The purchase followed the company's acquisition of STEC (for about $340 million), a maker of enterprise solid-state drives (SSDs), and VeloBit, an advanced SSD caching software company. Collectively these purchases expand HGST's presence in the fast-growing enterprise SSD market.
In 2012 Western Digital bought Hitachi's disk drive business, HGST, for around $4.3 billion in cash and stock. The deal boosted Western Digital's share of the global market to nearly 50%, ahead of rival Seagate Technology which accounted for around 30% of global shipments. Strategically, the deal added disk drives used with servers -- a large part of both Hitachi and Seagate's businesses -- and gave Western Digital a better foothold in solid-state drives used in tablets and other portable devices.
Over the past several years the company bought the magnetic media sputtering operations of Hoya for about $233 million and entered the market for solid-state drives with the $65 million purchase of SiliconSystems. In a large 2007 acquisition, Western Digital bought disk component maker Komag for $1 billion, which gave it the ability to manufacture the media and substrates used in its drives.