Aquantia Said to Be Preparing Rare Semiconductor IPO

  • Company is leading maker of chips for fast Ethernet access
  • Chipmaker has raised more than $200 million in funding

Aquantia Corp., a maker of chips that control high-speed data cables, is planning to sell shares to the public, according to people familiar with the process.

The company may file this year to sell stock, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.

If Aquantia, which has raised about $200 million in venture funding over the last decade, is successful in entering the public markets, it will be a rare breakthrough in an industry increasingly dominated by large companies. The chip business is in the middle of a record year for mergers and acquisitions as costs climb and customers also consolidate.

Aquantia designs chips that enable Ethernet cables to transmit data between computers and networking equipment. It is trying to take advantage of new demand created as corporations deploy gear that provides faster connections between their computers using multi-gigabit Ethernet. The company is the first to field chips that are capable of 10-gigabit speeds.

Semiconductor IPO Scarcity

Of the $80 billion raised by more than 300 technology and Internet company IPOs since 2010, less than 6 percent have been in the semiconductor industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Those 17 chip companies raised a total of $2.9 billion -- about half of which came from two chipmakers, Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. and NXP Semiconductor NV. The companies both returned to the public markets after being bought by private-equity firms in offerings that raised a total of $1.4 billion. NXP earlier this year unveiled plans to buy Freescale.

For public-market investors, chipmakers offer far from guaranteed, long-term returns. Six of the 17 that have gone public in recent years are trading below the price of their initial offerings. Another five have been acquired.

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