When it comes to data storage, Western Digital has drive and more than a splash of flash. 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 half of sales, including China's 18%). The US is Western Digital's ingle biggest country market, accounting for 28% of revenue. The EMEA region accounts for 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 (two-thirds of revenue), with Hewlett-Packard accounting for 11% of revenue. Distributors and retailers account for about 20% and 14% of sales, respectively.
Western Digital's sales slowed 10% in 2016 (ended July) to about $13 billion from $14.5 billion in 2015. Shipments of hard disks slipped 19% for 2016 because of the sluggish demand around the world for personal computers. The average selling price rose a buck to $61 in 2015 from 2014.
The company posted a drastic-sounding 83% drop in profit for 2016. Its bottom line registered $242 million for the year, down from $1.5 billion in 2015. While sluggish sales took profit down a notch, the big hit came from charges the company took on discontinuation of a software project for the fourth quarter and full year of fiscal 2016.
Cash flow from operations came in at $1.9 billion in 2016, from $2.2 billion in 2015.
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 July 2016 the company said it had developed its 3D NAND technology, BiCS3. It is stacked with 64 layers of vertical storage capability. Beyond the BiCS3, Western Digitgal plans to develop and commercialize more 3D NAND technologies over the coming years.
The company is working with Toshiba, its partner in flash memory production, to develop 3D resistive random-access memory (ReRAM) technology. Another collaboration is with Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development on 3D ReRAM for use in storage class memory applications.
In 2015, Western Digital sold a 15% stake to Unisplendour, a unit of Tsinghua Holding of China, for $3.7 billion. The deal infuses a good amount of money into Western Digital, which is could use to further build its flash storage business. It also provides a channel for boosting sales in China, where Western Digital's sales plunged 22% in 2015 from 2014. The deal might face regulatory scrutiny since Tsinghua is controlled by the Chinese government.
In association with Unisplendour, Western Digital began a $300 million joint venture that focuses on storage devices and big data services. The enterprise is based in Nanjing, China and it will develop products for the China market.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Western Digital has long used acquisitions to add new product lines and extend its geographic reach.
In 2015, the company agreed to buy SanDisk for $19 billion in cash and stock. SanDisk, which has $6.6 billion in annual revenues, is a leader in non-volatile memory, and would enable Western Digital to offer a more comprehensive product line. Western Digital also gains a long-term source of NAND products and technology. NAND is a type of flash memory that is used for high-capacity data storage, a market growing with the rise of cloud computing, big data, and analytics.
In another 2015 deal, Western Digital acquired Amplidata, a developer of object storage software for public and private cloud data centers, for about $267 million The acquisition is expected to help the HGST subsidiary to expand into higher value data storage platforms and systems in cloud data centers.