Unitive, a high-end chip development and manufacturing firm spun out from MCNC in 1997, is being sold.

Amkor Technology, which is based in Arizona, announced Wednesday morning that it was buying Unitive and a majority interest in a Unitive joint venture for some $48 million.

A earn-out provision of up to $55 million could also be paid to Unitive shareholders based on performance and goals in coming months, a Unitive spokesman tells Local Tech Wire.

The deal includes assumption of $23 million debt.

In a statement, Amkor said Unitive’s management team would stay in place. Unitive employs some 120 people in its RTP locations. “We absolutely want and expect them to stay,” David Hays, vice president of sales and marketing, tells LTW.

“As a privately held company, we always kept our options open,” Hays says. Unitive had worked with Amkor in the past and was interested in acquiring what Hays called “strategic technology” in the chips field. “We feel we have technology that is three to five years ahead of our competitors,” he says.

After having discussions with Amkor, Hays explains, “We found it was a good time to get married.”

Many of Unitive’s employees are stockholders in the company and stand to benefit financially, especially if the “earn-out” provisions are met, he adds.

Various chip firms have invested in Unitive over the years. Among them were Flextronics and Fairchild.

“With the projected industry growth of these wafer level processing technologies across a broad range of applications, we believe the integration of Unitive’s development team and manufacturing capability with Amkor’s assembly and test infrastructure can drive strong growth in the flip chip and wafer level packaging businesses,” said Ken Donahue, president of Unitive, in a statement.

Donahue started with Unitive as its chief financial officer when the company received its first funding.

Two of Unitive’s original five founders remain with the firm – J. Daniel Mis, vice president of technology integration, and Glenn Rinne, vice president of research and development.

Unitive, which was launched in 1997 after MCNC won a chip development contract from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is a developer of electroplated wafer bumping technology for silicon chips. It introduced the first electroplated lead-free wafer bumping process earlier this year.

Unitive also offers turnkey capability for wafer level chip packaging and services, including design. Unitive’s headquarters is in RTP. It also maintains a fabrication facility.

The company closed on $12.6 million in new financing in December. It was honored in 2003 as the Electronics Company of the Year by the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association.
Amkor (Nasdaq: AMKR) also said it retained an option to purchase the remaining 40 percent of Unitive Semiconductor Taiwan Corporation over the next 18 months.

Amkor said the deal is expected to close in August. Both Unitive and the subsidiary would then operate as part of Amkor.

Unitive: www.unitive.com