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Western Digital Restarts One Thai HDD Plant

12/19/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK – While the floodwaters in Thailand
continue to recede, hard-drive prices are rising even
as HDD factories start to come back online.

In addition to increased costs, the reduction
in the number of hard
disk drives (HDDs)
available is having a
strong impact on the
PC industry.

Those drives that are
making it to market in
both the aftermarket and
OEM side are considerably
more expensive.

IHS’ most recent data,
which uses the fourth quarter of 2009 as a reference
point, indicates that pricing for almost every
drive capacity has risen starting in October. That is
the month the flooding began in Thailand.

Previously, drive prices experienced double-digit
price drops every month leading up to when the natural
disaster began.

The 3.5-inch, platter 7,200 rpm drives with storage
capacities ranging between 160GB and 1TB
have been the most affected, with prices rising
from between 22 percent to 38 percent. The 5,400
rpm 2.5-inch, drives with capacities of 160GB and
320GB have seen single-digit percentile increases.

The HDD type that has not seen any change in pricing
are the 3.5-inch, 7,200 rpm 2TB models. Prices have
continued to decrease each month despite the crisis, although
at a slower rate.

Due to the overall
shortage on Dec. 12, Intel
lowered its financial
forecast for the current
quarter based on how the
HDD shortage will impact
computer shipments.

“The worldwide PC
supply chain is reducing
inventories and microprocessor
purchases as a result of hard disk drive supply
shortages,” the company said.

Intel expects HDD supply shortages to continue
into the first quarter, followed by a rebuilding of microprocessor
inventories as supplies of hard disk
drives recover during the first half of 2012.

Hewlett-Packard’s CEO Meg Whitman and Dell
said in November, when the floodwaters were at their
height, that the HDD shortage would create problems
for their companies for the next few quarters.

IDC noted that a worst-case scenario could see
PC shipments depressed by as much as 20 percent
for the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same
period in 2011.

Earlier this month Western Digital reported that
it restarted hard-drive production at its Bang-Pa-in,
Thailand, facility during the last week.

The facility had been under up to 6 feet of water
when it was inundated on Oct. 15. The factory was
not expected to re-open for at least another week, the
company said.

The area was pumped dry as of Nov. 17. Power was
restored on Nov. 26, and production officially began
again on Nov. 30.

At the same facility, Western Digital has removed
all submerged slider manufacturing equipment for assessment,
decontamination and refurbishment and
expects to re-commence slider production in March
2012. At the same time, slider production will commence
at another Western Digital facility in Penang,
Malaysia.

The company’s second hard-drive facility, located
in Navanakorn, was still under about 2 feet of
water in early December. The industrial park was
expected to be pumped dry by mid-March at which
time the facility can be refurbished.

Western Digital is forecasting a 50 million to 60
million hard-drive shortfall in production for the fourth
quarter due to the flooding. This will force a severe
constraint on supply into at least the second quarter
of 2012, it reported.

The Seagate and Hitachi GST factories were not
damaged by the flood, but were shuttered for several
weeks due to component shortages.

Toshiba was also hard hit, with 50 percent of its
HDD production capability in the flooded zone.

HDD production supply is not expected to catch up
to demand until the second quarter of 2012.