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Brian Halla: Poised To Pump Out Info Appliances

In Business This Week: HEADLINER


Brian Halla has been a whirlwind at National Semiconductor. Since becoming CEO in May, 1996, he has repositioned the $2.5 billion chipmaker to become a key supplier of chips for "information appliances" such as handheld PCs.

On July 25, Halla worked through his 51st birthday to put the finishing touches on the one missing element in his plan: an Intel-compatible microprocessor. Three days later, he sewed up a $550 million deal to buy Intel cloner Cyrix of Richardson, Tex. "I couldn't think of a better present," says Halla.

The Cyrix buy puts National in pole position in the race against Intel, SGS-Thomson, and others to shrink the parts of a PC onto a single chip. Cyrix already supplies Compaq Computer with the chip for a $799 PC. Now, Halla must meld Cyrix' processors with National's low-power circuits and video chips to make the plan work. "We have all the pieces to put together a complete PC system on a chip," boasts Halla. He promises that the first products will be available by next May.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLAND By Gary McWilliamsReturn to top


FRESH FROM JOUSTING WITH Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the European Union may take on the deal between American Airlines and British Airways. EU regulators have drafted a tough list of conditions, including demands that the airlines give up 353 Heathrow slots--more than double what British regulators had recommended--before it will approve the alliance. The slots would be given away free to rivals. The EU also may insist that AA and BA halve the number of flights on many routes between Britain and the U.S. Worse, the EU says it won't rule on the deal until September at the earliest. BA CEO Robert Ayling has threatened to pull out of the deal if it's not approved by November.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top


FOLLOW THE MONEY: J.P. Morgan is expanding beyond its longtime focus on institutions and the wealthy, announcing on July 30 that it would be taking a 45% stake in no-load fund manager American Century for $900 million. "Demographics is destiny," says Ned Kelly, a managing director of Morgan. "As the population ages, asset management will continue to grow." American Century's focus on growth stocks contrasts with Morgan's more conservative investing style. But Morgan won't change its stripes, says Kelly. "It's structured so each of us preserves autonomy. We'll work to build value together."EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top


IT'S AS IF THEY GOT REMARRIED before the ink on the divorce decree dried. Yahoo! and Visa International on July 29 ended a 16-month-old joint venture to create an electronic-commerce Web site. So Yahoo! will hand over $21 million in stock to Visa in exchange for its 45% share of the joint venture and take a $21.2 million pretax charge against second-quarter earnings. But the romance continues. The companies simultaneously announced a raft of new projects, including a co-branded Yahoo! Visa card.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

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