In an intriguing note, a Wall Street analyst suggests Samsung — you know, the South Korean company keeping Apple’s legal department in yachts and private islands — could be one of the beneficiaries of $3.4 billion Apple will spend to retool suppliers’ factories in 2012. Or Apple could just build itself a couple of state-of-the-art chip factories from scratch.
Apple says it plans to spend the billions next year on non-retail capital expenditures, which Sanford Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi believes largely is aimed at the “operations area, particularly tooling.” Key components, such as unibody enclosures, flash memory, LCD screens and chips are all possible targets of Apple-funded retooling. The tools won’t end up in mega-assemblers, such as Hon Hoi’s Foxconn, but in smaller component makers, including Sharp, Toshiba and Samsung.
What could Apple do with what the analyst describes as a “staggering” amount of spending? One possibility Sacconaghi offers is that the Cupertino, Calif. company could build two chip manufacturing plants from the dirt up. Even if Apple decides to turn to its frenemy Samsung for iPhone and iPad chips, the company could outspend all but three technology firms and increase its own capital expenditures nine-fold.
Besides the long history of courtroom fights with Samsung — 20 IP lawsuits spanning nine countries, according to one account — Apple has an odd relationship with the Korean smartphone and tablet maker. Not only does Samsung make devices that compete with the iPhone and iPod, it also produces LCD screens, memory and processors for those same Apple products. Earlier this year, we reported the pricetag on the weird relationship between the two firms is expected to reach $7.8 billion.