AMD offers $1.91 million to keep ATI chief

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) is moving fast to complete a planned acquisition of ATI Technologies Inc., offering US$1.7 million in salary and bonuses to hire the graphics card vendor’s chief executive officer, David Orton.

Retaining Orton could help AMD to reach its stated goal of building a single platform to boost its performance in media and data processing and to build a stronger presence in the consumer digital media market, AMD said when it announced the $5.4 billion offer in July.

AMD hopes to build electronics that combine its microprocessors with ATI’s GPUs (graphics processing units), and thus maintain its momentum in nibbling away at the market share of rival, Intel Corp. So the company offered Orton a job as senior vice president of the planned 14,900-person company, according to papers filed Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

AMD also reported this week that government officials on Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission had approved the deal. AMD expects to clear all other hurdles by the end of October, including the approval of ATI shareholders and Canadian securities regulators.

But even as AMD nears its goal, rumors surfaced Wednesday that Intel wants to acquire ATI’s rival, Nvidia Corp., the only remaining vendor of the graphics cards used in PCs, gaming consoles, set-top boxes and handheld devices. An industry analyst was quoted by the EE Times saying the rumor is swirling, but he believes it is unlikely.

Indeed, such a move would be surprising, given Intel’s ongoing corporate reorganization. The company is struggling to meet profit targets and has recently cut costs by laying off 10,500 workers and selling several divisions. Also, Nvidia is growing more expensive by the day, as stock traders see a bright future for the sole remaining independent graphics vendor, boosting company stock from $18 to $30 since AMD announced the deal to buy ATI, as of midday Thursday.

Intel does not comment on rumors, a spokeswoman said. A Nvidia spokesman declined to comment, calling the rumors mere market speculation.

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