Belfast Telegraph

US rival keen on assets of troubled firm

By Clare Weir

A US digital company with a base in Belfast could be acquired by another leading American firm after filing for bankruptcy protection.

Trident Microsystems, which makes parts for electronics companies like Samsung, LG and Sony, specialises in set-top boxes for digital televisions and employs around 20 people at its Malone Road office.

It is not yet known how staff in Northern Ireland will be affected.

The firm filed for 'Chapter 11' bankruptcy protection in the USA and has added that another company, Entropic Communications, has made a $55m (£37m) bid to acquire a portion of its business. Trident said in September it was laying off about 22% of workers - about 275 staff out of 1,300 - and shares have plummeted recently.

Entropic said it filed an asset purchase agreement as a "stalking horse" bidder and added it would plan to hire about 385 Trident employees primarily and acquire facilities in Austin, Texas, Belfast and Hyderabad, India.

According to court papers filed in Delaware, Trident has blamed its financial hardship on Taiwanese competitors that are selling products at cheaper prices and on its trouble in finding new sources of money.

Trident Microsystems is finding difficulties paying off debts of roughly $215.3m (£140m), the documents said. The firm wants to use Entropic's offer as the first at a February 15 auction to see if better deals emerge and if Entropic loses out, Trident would pay it a $1.65m (£1.1m) break-up fee.

The sale proceeds would fund Trident Microsystems until executives can find a way to restructure the business or sell off other product lines.

The company's chief executive Bami Bastani said: "A combination of increased pricing pressures in our industry, lower demand in consumer electronics, and slower than anticipated new product adoption has contributed to increased operating losses, a deterioration in liquidity and an erosion in equity values for Trident."

Neither Trident or Entropic was available for comment yesterday.