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Seagate Ranks Number One in HDD Shipments

iSuppli Corp. announced that Seagate Technology LLC in the fourth quarter of 2009 maintained its lead as the world’s largest manufacturer of Hard Disk Drives (HDD), fending off a strong challenge by perennial second-ranked Western Digital Corp.

According to the statement, shipping approximately 49.9 million HDD units (up 8% from third-quarter levels of 46.3 million) Seagate in the last quarter of 2009 controlled 31% of the market. Revenue rose 14% to $3.03 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $2.66 billion in the third, translating into a 34% share of market.

All told, those numbers were enough to keep Seagate, nominally based in the Cayman Islands with a large operational office in Scotts Valley, Calif., in the No. 1 position in both shipment and revenue share of the HDD market in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“The tenacious hold at the top for Seagate surprised many observers who thought Western Digital would bypass its primary competitor in the fourth quarter of last year,” said Fang Zhang, analyst for storage systems at iSuppli. “Despite shipping a record 49.5 million HDD units—a 12% expansion from the earlier quarter—Western Digital was unable to dislodge Seagate and had to settle once again for second place, finishing close behind with approximately 30% market share.”

Revenue during the fourth quarter for Lake Forest, Calif.-based Western Digital rose 19% to $2.57 billion, up from $2.16 billion in the third quarter—also amounting to about 30% of the market, like its unit share.

Other companies that placed in the Top 5 during the fourth quarter include Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Toshiba/Fujitsu and Samsung Electronics.

iSuppli expects Seagate to uphold its peak ranking in the first quarter of 2010, with Western Digital to remain in its now-familiar spot as runner-up.

Both companies are expected to increase capital expenditures this year—to an estimated $750 million for Seagate, up from $550 million in 2009; and to a projected match of $750 million for Western Digital, up from $650 million.

Given the seasonal nature of the market, overall HDD shipments in the first quarter of 2010 will decrease slightly, even though industry supply chains will remain tight until the second half of the year in view of continuing strong demand for product, iSuppli is forecasting.

By then, both companies will expect their capacities to have come down to the mid-90% level, maintaining a balance between supply and demand.

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